The following schedule for the Indian domestic season 2006-07 has just been announced on CricInfo.Mumbai's coach for the last season, Karsan Ghavri, has shifted to Tripura. Rajasthan and Saurashtra are the new teams in this year's Ranji. There is still a debate on who will be invited as the international entry for this year's Duleep Trophy, after the KZN Dolphins from SA pulled out. Questions are still asked about what is going on in the Delhi camp.Code:Date Tournament Venue 01-04 Oct Challenger Series Chennai 09-13 Oct Irani Trophy Vidarbha Nov-Jan Ranji Trophy Various Venues 10-20 Feb Ranji One-Day Tournament Various Venues in East Zone 25 Feb-09 Mar Deodhar Trophy North Zone 19 Oct-17 Nov Duleep Trophy East Zone
With Railways relegated, this year's Ranji just won't be itself. That was one competitive, versatile team, where ordinary individuals came together for some extraordinary performances, even against top teams in their groups. Champions the season before, relegated in the next one, it's been quite a rough ride for this team, whose fate was decided on both counts by the nonsensical first-innings lead rule and bonus points. While selectors may ignore some of the best players on show in the domestic scene, Railways have a lot to perform, to prove they belong in the top flight.
Of the two teams promoted last year, Haryana are still in the league. Sadly, bizarre comments and selections in that camp have weakened the team a lot. Their captain, Ajay Ratra, was dropped because of 'a few dropped catches and several batting failures', though his captaincy had a major role in their victory in the Plate league and their subsequent promotion to Elite. Since, the captaincy has been shared by spinner Amit Mishra and middle-order bat Shafiq Khan, while another opener has been playing as wicketkeeper. Not surprisingly, they struggled to bowl teams out cheaply. A surprise package was Sachin Rana, a stock medium-pacer who's had a good season as a batsman, even getting over 200 runs in a match. India prospects Amit Mishra and Joginder Sharma were not so lucky.
There has not been much news around the domestic scene so far, except for the drama about the Duleep Trophy's international entry. Let's just hope there's a good team brought in this time. First, we have seen England A come, and except for a win against a Tamil Nadu B side, they lost every match, including a laughably dumb defeat to South Zone. Surprisingly, this was actually a reseve England side. Then we saw Bangladesh send a reserve team which predictably got crushed in the next season's event, and then a Zimbabwean C team (the regular Test/ODI side was a B team anyway) get crushed some more. We were expecting some action with Dolphins coming to town, but that couldn't happen. Who knows who's coming.
The Irani Trophy follows the Challenger series, and this is a fantastic chance for the selectors to pick a full-strength or experimental Indian team as Rest Of India. It will help the game a lot, as the Indians can not only get some extra practice, but the young team from Uttar Pradesh can also learn a lot. Likewise, the Challenger series should be played as a workout for the Indian ODI side against two reserve or academy teams.
Mumbai are not the same team that we've expected, which would otherwise dominate the proceedings. The exodus of key players to teams like Baroda and Maharashtra has left some big gaps in the team. While not much can be said of Nilesh Kulkarni's captaincy, the exit of Bahutule has left the team an all-rounder short, and they've often played a bowler less, finding it difficult to bowl teams out. Robin Morris may be out of action once more, while the likes of Wilkin Mota and Abhishek Nair are not seasoned. That said, this is a young Mumbai side, and with India-A player Rohit Sharma in fine form, they can turn things around.
Will Mumbai regain past glory? Will Baroda move one step ahead of being mere upstarts? Will Maharashtra do one better than last season? Will UP defend their Ranji title? Will they win the Irani Trophy as well? Will Ramesh Powar dominate again? Will Rohit Sharma lead the batting ranks? Will we see some real action in the OD's? Or a threat from abroad in Duleep? Wait and watch.