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Need to revise Ranji Trophy schedule

Makarand Waingankar

Performance in the Ranji Trophy has always been considered for national selection. But Ranji Trophy is losing its sheen because of the tight schedule or the attitude of top players.

There is a need to revise the schedule so that players are available for their respective States.

In 22 years of first class cricket Sachin Tendulkar has played only 33 Ranji Trophy matches. In 10 years Rahul Dravid has played 100 Tests, but he has played only 10 Ranji Trophy matches. From the year 2000 to 2004 he didn't play a single Ranji Trophy match and in 2005 he played only one Ranji Trophy match. But he is not known to avoid any Ranji Trophy matches.

There's more; in 18 years of his first class career Anil Kumble has never bowled to Tendulkar in a Ranji Trophy match and Javagal Srinath in 16 years bowled to Tendulkar only in the India nets.

In 12 long years of first class career Harbhajan Singh didn't play Ranji Trophy for seven years!

So India's best bowlers — Kumble, Srinath and Harbhajan — hasn't bowled to the top batsman Sachin Tendulkar in the national championship.

How do we then expect the standard of Indian cricket to improve?

Australian system

We should analyse the Australian system. In 2004, when Glenn McGrath declared himself fit and available for the national team, he was politely told by the selectors to play club and State cricket to prove match fitness.

It's perfectly understandable for a top player to give Ranji Trophy a miss during the season but some players have very conveniently avoided playing domestic tournaments citing fitness or personal problems very frequently.

In the season of 1979-80 India played 13 Tests — six against Australia followed by six against Pakistan — in India during the winter and one Golden Jubilee Test against England but the Indian players also played Ranji Trophy matches in between Test matches.

Some international players avoid playing for their companies. One of the fast bowlers of the Indian team hasn't turned up to play for his employers since the time he joined them. And hardly anyone plays club cricket.

Sunil Gavaskar, after a gruelling England tour of 1979, was in the maidan tent an hour before the start of the play in the monsoon tournament (Kanga League) in Mumbai. The former Mumbai opener Sudhakar Adhikari tied the nuptial knot at nine in the morning, and rushed to play the Ranji Trophy. He scored a century and returned to the wedding hall in the evening for his reception.

When international players take part in domestic cricket, youngsters get to learn.

Teenager Dilip Vengsarkar learned more about batting watching Gavaskar from the other end for Dadar Union than listening to a dozen coaches. Former India opener Madhav Apte, who toured the West Indies in 1953, played ‘A' division tournaments for 55 years until the age of 71, facing Mumbai Ranji Trophy bowlers without a helmet.

The solution is simple. Like Australian cricket, make playing domestic cricket mandatory irrespective of the stature of a player. Sadly the stalwarts seem to have forgotten that when they were teenagers they benefited immensely by playing with cricketing icons.

The juniors in the Indian team are struggling because they haven't played with the seniors in club or State cricket.

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