India’s domestic season will enter its second phase, comprising the Ranji Trophy followed by the Irani Cup. The BCCI and its state associations will need to grapple with the massive volume of cricket given 38 teams. There’s still lots of room for change though, and ESPNcricinfo spoke with four established players asking them to recommend one change they would want in domestic cricket going forward.
Wasim Jaffer (Vidarbha batsman) – Sporting pitches a must
I want first-class matches to be played on sporting pitches. A sporting pitch for me is where the team batting first scores 300-350. Not 500 or 600. If the game is too dependent on the toss, we have lost the battle straightaway.
Currently, I feel both the curator’s and the match referee’s hands are tied because of the pressure from the host association. The BCCI needs to give more powers to the match referee. I have seen the odd match played in conditions that are very favourable to the host association. Ideally, the match referees have all the rights to reprimand them, but they don’t.
As an example take this match in Rajkot between Saurashtra and Karanataka, where the spinners had a big say. Karnataka lost the toss and Saurashtra easily won in the end. That match was shown live on TV. How could you play on such a pitch?
Even though the BCCI is doing far more than many other countries to make good pitches by sending a neutral curator a week or so before the game, if the pitches are sporting and the conditions are even for both teams, where everyone – batsman, fast bowler, spinner – is involved, then Indian cricket will improve.
The other advantage of having a sporting pitch is that if a player excels in a demanding situation the selectors can gauge the value of such a performance and that can help in the longer run.
Abhinav Mukund (Tamil Nadu batsman) – Upgrade television cameras
Every single domestic match in India is covered by cameras with the match officials having access to the feed to assess line calls. But the quality of these cameras has not changed for more than a decade. That is the change I would want. The feed that we as players get from the most of the existing cameras is very, very bad. I feel the cameras have not changed since I made my first-class debut. Technology has advanced far ahead so better cameras ought to be there in domestic cricket.
How can better cameras help? Take the example of a no-ball call, it is something that is referred constantly, so with better cameras the decisions could become more accurate than what exists now. Also, currently the team analyst does not get the feed to the side-angle camera. It is unfair only because if the match is being broadcast on TV, everyone has access to the side camera angle. With better cameras, decision making will become smoother and teams can also avail of the benefits, especially in marginal decisions.
Jaydev Unadkat (Saurashtra fast bowler) – Do away with the toss
Perhaps the BCCI can think of doing away the toss. Give the visiting the team the choice to bat or bowl. That probably could make the matches more challenging. That way the wickets will be more sporting as well.
The home team naturally has a better idea of the pitch and how it will behave. For example, if I am playing at home and Saurashtra have prepared a turner, a wicket I know will turn in the fourth innings, so if I get to bat first I am 90% certain I can beat any team.
In the same scenario, if the visiting team gets to decide to bat first, based on past results and behaviour of the pitch and our performance in the first innings, it would be more challenging even for the home team. We will have to figure out what kind of wicket to give and what kind of cricket to play. We will then have to fight it out even in home conditions. Essentially what I am saying neutralises home advantage and makes the contest even.
Unmukt Chand (Uttarakhand batsman) – Make Deodhar Trophy more relevant
The Deodhar Trophy needs to be made more competitive. I know the schedule is too tight for the BCCI administration to fit in everything, but this time the Deodhar Trophy followed the Vijay Hazare Trophy and was a rushed affair. The Deodhar Trophy, played between three teams – India A, B and C – lasted five days including a a rest day before the final.
Somehow, in a way, such a schedule affects the relevance of such a big tournament. So I would want the Deodhar Trophy become more competitive and played over a larger time span. Also in the current format, players have no attachments to their teams. If you are playing for your state you have that attachment and there is a pride involved. Right now it is more like you are looking at your own performance and not care about anything else. It is not an individual game. There has to be something you are fighting (together) for.
How can it be more competitive? In the past the Deodhar was contested between zones. You had this pride of playing for North Zone etc. Also the tournament then did not end in four days, there was a proper time given, proper relevance.