Points to ponder

The BCCI has to either go in for 10 teams in the Elite group or create a new group of Super Elite.

There has been a lot of debate on the deteriorating standard of first-class cricket in India. The BCCI felt the need to restore the standard in 2003, and its technical committee recommended that there should be only two teams from each zone in the Elite group for matches to be competitive.

Instead of accepting this solution, the BCCI decided on having three teams from each zone, thereby making it a total of 15 teams in the Elite group. The dramatic turnaround that we saw in this year's Ranji Trophy was mainly in the last two rounds and some of these extra teams were responsible for it.

If one analyses the strength of teams, some from the Elite are as poor as the Plate teams. The problem is that the Plate teams have a common standard, whereas the five weak teams in the Elite allow the 10 tough teams to gain full points.

The BCCI has to either go in for 10 teams in the Elite group or create a new group of Super Elite. The top five teams should form the group of Super Elite and play each team twice — home and away. The matches also should be of five days and should be played immediately after the Duleep Trophy. This would mean a total of 32 matches and 160 days of top quality cricket.

The top five teams should be chosen on the basis of their performances in the previous three seasons. The selectors, after watching the Duleep Trophy, should watch the Super Elite.

These top teams will have top performers, many of whom may have played in the Duleep Trophy.

With every team playing four matches of five days duration, the competition will be fierce. Moreover, the strategy required for a five-day game is completely different from what is employed in a four-day game. Playing extra 90 overs means a major change in every aspect of the game. A different strategy for bowling and batting will have to be planned and executed. What the Indians require is a game of 450 overs for them to get adjusted to the tactics of international cricket.

A five-day game is of 15 sessions, and that means 540 balls more. To use those balls to one's advantage requires planning and the ability to execute that planning.

The Aussie formula

The Aussies work on the formula of John Buchanan who had placed posters in the dressing room when they toured India in 2004:

Batting Method

Look to score i.e. batting for longer periods Patience Looking to bat once per game Dressing room environment (Respect all individual needs, especially those preparing to bat) Use computers to analyse shot selection Improved shot making 1) selection 2) execution Partnerships (top and tail order) and keep note of partnership records between batsmen 8, 9, 10, 11 contributions to increase

Key Measures

Avg min 80 + balls Avg 1 x 100 + in top 4 Avg 2 x 50 + in top 8 Avg first inning total increase Avg partnerships top 6 increase Compare partnerships with opponents (pitch condition) No. of 1s increase

Bowling Method

Not to spend full day in field Ability to take wickets Maintaining pressure through delivering plans and maidens Ability to bowl long spells Be as effective First/Second spells + First and Second innings Bowl in partnerships Ability to bowl `Irish' Adapt to different conditions Bowlers help set standards

Key Measures Strike rates high 45-55 High (?) % maidens Consecutive maidens % increasing Economy rate close 3 Very low wide/no ball counts i.e. {lt} 1% total runs Bowling dot balls last ball of over

The Aussie formula is quite interesting and more often than not, they use it to perfection. The standard of Indian cricket will definitely be raised if our teams are induced to incorporate the formula into their game.