The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) needs to go easy with the advice of its cricket committee. Some of the advice being dished out borders on the ridiculous.
How else can one describe the travesty of a Duleep Trophy cricket tournament that is being played at Noida. The format is something of a joke. The only reason no one’s laughing is because of the realisation that the most important domestic tournament has now been reduced to a farce simply because someone forgot to schedule it last year.
Consequently, BCCI got royally singed and latched on to this apology of a tournament for the current season.
If this was not appalling enough, they decided that the Ranji Trophy from the forthcoming season would be played on neutral grounds. The last person who tried this kind of whimsical shift from one place to another was Mohamed Bin Tughluq. And even that was over seven centuries ago!
Come to think of it, why is Mohali is going to be interested in watching Assam play Tripura? In all probability even the Punjab Cricket Association office-bearers may not be in attendance. They’d simply outsource the catering, transport, ground support and be done with it. Would the Punjab newspapers have any interest in covering this match? Your guess is as good as mine.
Just like Tugluq had to scamper back to Delhi with his tail between his legs, the Ranji Trophy format too would be reverted to the old format in double quick time. It is just that one hare-brained scheme after another simply won’t keep Indian cricket in the pink of health.
Speaking of pink, the Noida experiment is the embodiment of the Tugluqian concept. A nation of cricketers who have no clue on how to handle the swinging ball have been asked to do just that – grapple with a swinging, drifting pink ball.
In the process, the teams’ totals at the end of the first day resembled the scoreline of a high-scoring basketball match.
For some reason cricket administrators believe that like the white ball, the pink ball too could get dirty after a few overs and hence become difficult to spot under lights. They believe that it is easier for batsmen to spot pink rather than the red ball under lights and every effort is being made to ensure that the pink colour of the ball is retained over a substantial length of time.
The chosen process, thus far, is to have lush green outfield and a green top pitch to protect the colour of the ball. This has been known to retain the sheen on the ball a lot longer. Unfortunately this has been a letdown for batsmen. Prodigious swing, seam and even appreciable drift for the spinners have made it a nightmare for batsmen.
In the lone pink-ball Test thus far, Australia routed New Zealand in less than three days. Both sets of top order batsmen failed and the teams had to be rescued by tailenders. But for the rear-guard resistance, it is possible the Test would have ended in under two days. Excessive grass cover to protect the pink ball was seen as the reason for the debacle of batsmen of both sides.
The Duleep Trophy tournament opener too has suffered similarly. On a truncated opening day 17 wickets fell, with the first team being bowled out in under 49 overs. But for the hold up in play for sundry reasons it is possible that the opposition, somewhat aptly named India Green, would have been bundled out by close of play. As it is they were shot out early on the second day in 45.4 overs! Hopefully, with the second day’s play being hampered by rain, a wet pink ball would swing lesser and become more batsman friendly.
On the opening day, in drier conditions medium pacers looked larger than life. The green pitch, with its support for seam and swing, provided good carry. The spinners too had a great time as they got the ball to drift substantially. Naturally under the circumstances batting was anything but easy.
But for rains on the second day the match could have been expected to finish in under three days. Interestingly the BCCI have set aside four days apiece for this match, the next match and the final. May be they need a rethink. Two days of extended play should be sufficient for a result.
Meanwhile, we must be thankful to whoever in the BCCI decided that they had had enough of Tughluqian ways and thus junked the proposed pink-ball Test against New Zealand. Else our famed home advantage would have been confined to the dustbin!