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Thread: Has Ranji Trophy experience lost its relevance?

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    Cricketer Of The Year Arjun's Avatar
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    Has Ranji Trophy experience lost its relevance?

    The Ranji Trophy is India's premier inter-state FC cricket event. It has often been a matter of pride for a player to represent a state in this event- not just to get into the Indian team, but more to win the trophy. Things have gone downhill lately, for one of India's oldest cricketing events. In the recent past, almost going back a decade, we see Indian selectors overlooking Ranji Trophy accomplishments and even the much-bullied IPL to pick squads primarily on age groups and possibly Facebook likes- most of India's preferred young brigade score more on social network fan counts than their experienced Ranji stalwart counterparts.

    Abhinav Mukund has now become India's preferred Test opener, and hopefully this is his last Test series until two more domestic seasons. Why pick him ahead of Wasim Jaffer? Amit Mishra has had an enviable domestic/reserves record, but often misses out due to one poor match on a flat deck. His replacement, Pragyan Ojha, has played only a fraction of as many games, and has largely been poor as a replacement, over a long stretch of Tests. Another casualty of Ojha love was veteran spinner and Bedi protege Murali Kartik, who went public about being left out. Another disgruntled omitted stalwart who went public was Badrinath. That doesn't even list Amol Mazumdar, who has a formidable FC record, but strangely can't play for India, or Pankaj Dharmani, the one solution for India's wicketkeeper-batsman problem of the early 2000s, that then-young Parthiv Patel could never be. Vinay Kumar and Pankaj Singh have decent or even very good FC/List-A records, but miss out to a whole lot of mediocre seamers who have nothing on their side except (collectively) youth. All the unlucky ones have played at least fifty FC matches.

    Most Ranji stalwarts, often overlooked, silently work harder and amass another successful domestic season, until a call-up or eventual retirement. Some complain publicly, like JP Yadav, Badrinath and Kartik. Some go to an extreme, of bribing the selectors, like Abhijeet Kale may have done to make an India A team. That man Kale had a fantastic domestic record, but was left out for Rohan Gavaskar, always an average player, who made it big representing an Eastern state. It could get, and going by fan tales, has got, worse on many occasions. With age cheating being a factor in domestic cricket, often done by associations to win games easily, players may start forging their own ages just to become eligible for India- if an age under 25 is a benchmark of eligibility.

    Was the IPL a factor? After all, Ojha figured in DC's win in 2009- when almost all the Indians had a poor series- but Mishra is all over Ojha even in the IPL. Clearly, young Ojha has got the most of his youth. Each time the Indian team loses one game too many, the IPL is blamed, but even from the few IPL successes India has had, selections always favour the young. That's why Suresh Raina has had a very, very long free ride in the IPL era, even making the Test side, while older players like Yusuf Pathan and Amit Mishra have struggled to hold their places. And just recently, domestic greenhorn Rahul Sharma was apparently a prospect despite a brief (and poor) domestic record, due to his IPL 2011success.

    But why has the Ranji Trophy ceased to be relevant for national selection? One may argue there's a huge gap between domestic and international cricket. Ironically, the IPL tries hard to bridge the gap by bringing in international players and having India's best play the whole season. But otherwise, where do you look? The IPL? All cricket isn't T20. The T20 specialists struggle even in fifty overs. Youth cricket? India has gone that way far too long, and has had to pay with failure to make it big, until lately. Someone with heavy domestic experience has seen the ups and downs, and someone with a lot of success can take that forward into international cricket. These youngsters don't have it. Quality of pitches is another factor, and that can be worked upon.

    What can be a solution? Get India players to turn up regularly for Ranji cricket. After the first India cap, there should be a minimum cap on the number of domestic games played. Yes, that beast called scheduling comes in the way- but then, you can work around it by getting overseas players in their off-season. The BCCI needs to get that in mind. If the Duleep Trophy is so much more important, hold it in the off-season, and also invite an international reserve/champion-state team to play, like England and SL sent their teams then. Better economics can help improve the standard of cricket (or at least surfaces and facilities) in the Ranji Trophy, but hang on, economics goes to the wind for a board as rich as the BCCI.

    And more importantly, the next India cap should be given to a player who has turned in at least fifty (or let's make it sixty, taking both state and zone games) domestic matches. Let a golden jubilee of Ranji or Hazare games be a bigger factor in selection than the age certificate. When there is a vacancy in the Indian team, give it to the one with more FC/List-A experience outside internationals. You can't make a World No 1 team out of sprightly young boys- you need the he-men of the cricket structure. Let the India cap be earned like the legendary coin on Vijay Merchant's middle stump.
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    U19 Vice-Captain Anku31's Avatar
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    Excellent article Arjun.Hats off.
    Yes it's a big concern that players are not being picked on the basis of performance in Ranji Trophy.
    As you mentioned,it has even led to things like the Abhijit Kale case in the past.They do such things out of frustration.I would never blame kale for that incident,but would blame the selectors.The man had an average of 60 in FC cricket at that point of time & still couldn't get a test cap.
    Badrinath is the recent example.He averaged 131.50 last season.And can someone believe that he still didn't play a test after that?Even in the tests against WI in which seniors were rested.
    IMO Ranji Trophy & other domestic tournaments are themselves a mess right now.Players hardly get to play 8 or 9 FC games in a whole season compared to the 16 matches that the English county players get.Moreover,even those 8-9 matches are affected by poor pitches.If we look at the last couple of seasons,Mumbai batting has dominated.It has been a same story for all matches.Jaffer & company scoring big hundreds & the opposition loosing out on first innings lead.
    Deodhar Trophy has been a shame for last 2 seasons,being played on knock-out format.It was a great league tournament in which top 5 teams/top 60-70 players of the country would get to play 4-5 matches against each other.But BCCI doesn't seem to have enough time to organise a proper Deodhar & Duleep Trophy.
    I think the domestic structure needs a revamp & players should get more four-day matches to play.Matches are now being telecasted by Neo Cricket & fans should take interest in domestic matches too.Only this way,Pankaj Singh can have more likes on his Facebook page & BCCI may consider him!
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    Yes,selectors seem to be paying a lot more attention to the age of the player than their record at domestic level.There is also the point of dropping the players without giving them enough chances.Badrinath,as always,comes first in mind.Another point is the lack of decent no. of tours by India A team but even bigger crime is not selecting quality players from domestic circuit for these tours.Take the example of the emerging players tournament going on in Australia. players like Varun Aaron,Srikkanth Anirudh and Rahul Sharma are not our best bets.These tours should be used to give domestic circuit stalwarts much needed experience of playing in foreign.

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    Hall of Fame Member TT Boy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arjun View Post
    Abhinav Mukund has now become India's preferred Test opener, and hopefully this is his last Test series until two more domestic seasons. Why pick him ahead of Wasim Jaffer?
    Maybe because he is a tried and tested failure, especially in England.

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    Cricketer Of The Year Arjun's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scorpio1990 View Post
    Yes,selectors seem to be paying a lot more attention to the age of the player than their record at domestic level.There is also the point of dropping the players without giving them enough chances.Badrinath,as always,comes first in mind.Another point is the lack of decent no. of tours by India A team but even bigger crime is not selecting quality players from domestic circuit for these tours.Take the example of the emerging players tournament going on in Australia. players like Varun Aaron,Srikkanth Anirudh and Rahul Sharma are not our best bets.These tours should be used to give domestic circuit stalwarts much needed experience of playing in foreign.
    Rather the opposite- the likes of Mukund, Raina (yes, he's crossed FC50, but still) and Kohli need to play this event, while Badrinath, Mazumdar and (by a long shot) Manhas or an all-rounder should be in contention for Tests. That Emerging Players Tournament is essentially an event for promising youngsters from all countries. It does not even have official status, so that's no real loss.
    Quote Originally Posted by TT Boy View Post
    Maybe because he is a tried and tested failure, especially in England.

    All-round records | Test matches | Cricinfo Statsguru | ESPN Cricinfo
    He's still India's Number Three opener, following Sehwag and Gambhir. Way ahead of U-23 prodigy Mukund and his older partner Vijay.

    Even in those stats, he had a poor 2002 tour, but his performance in 2007 was much better. Clearly, a significant improvement, and this tour would have been so much better.

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    Cricketer Of The Year Arjun's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anku31 View Post
    IMO Ranji Trophy & other domestic tournaments are themselves a mess right now...Jaffer & company scoring big hundreds & the opposition loosing out on first innings lead...Deodhar Trophy has been a shame for last 2 seasons,being played on knock-out format...I think the domestic structure needs a revamp & players should get more four-day matches to play.Matches are now being telecasted by Neo Cricket & fans should take interest in domestic matches too.
    Another casualty of the BCCI-created scheduling monster indeed. When the Indian team is playing a high-profile tour, you have the Ranji Trophy, and the knockouts go into yet another tour. How will they get their top Indian players? Worse, they seem to think there's no need for an overseas addition to each team, which is disappointing. Pitches are a bone of contention, but we all agree on one thing- too much importance is laid on that first-innings lead. It should be discarded altogether, with split points for a draw and a margin of five points for an outright win. If it's a knockout, net run rate should ease them ahead.

    Seriously, what has the BCCI done to the Deodhar Trophy? It's become a knockout, and the best team never makes it!

    Matches are covered by Neo, but you usually find it picking up towards the business end, and they have a very odd choice of matches. While I don't mind the South Zone coverage, we see the odd Gujarat/Saurashtra/Himachal/Orissa game getting covered- it makes for some very boring cricket, with few or no India prospects. Let the one match covered be one of the top six State teams.

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    Now seeing the pathetic performance by those pieces of **** in England,the BCCI may just wake up from it's sleep.(No harm in dreaming now,is there...?)

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    Cricketer Of The Year Manee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TT Boy View Post
    Maybe because he is a tried and tested failure, especially in England.

    All-round records | Test matches | Cricinfo Statsguru | ESPN Cricinfo
    Quote Originally Posted by Arjun View Post
    Even in those stats, he had a poor 2002 tour, but his performance in 2007 was much better. Clearly, a significant improvement, and this tour would have been so much better.
    Yes. I'm leaning too toward the fact that perhaps we try too many youngsters in Test cricket such as: Mukund, Kohli, Raina, whereas the likes of Badrinath or Jaffer would have been better options. Raina has a poor FC batting record, how is he expected to better that at Test level when Ranji Trophy often contains many poor bowling line ups. It is not the same situation as Collingwood, Vaughan or Trescothick because county cricket is a pretty high level of competition and has a fair share of tricky batting conditions.
    The speed at which a fielding team gets through the innings is overrated.

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    Cricketer Of The Year Arjun's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scorpio1990 View Post
    Now seeing the pathetic performance by those pieces of **** in England,the BCCI may just wake up from it's sleep.(No harm in dreaming now,is there...?)
    They'd do well not to give away #2 as well by persisting with age-group quota selections.

    Forget IPL. Forget scheduling. Forget resting in a series or going through all of it. This age-group selection has caused more harm at this stage.

    This isn't a rebuilding Indian team trying to get out of the bottom spot twice, or a horrendous two years under a freak coach. This is an Indian team at number one. Now that they've lost it, they need to send all these boys back home, no matter how much Dhoni loves them, and make the Navy Blue harder to earn. Let these spoilt princes know that it is not easy to make an Indian team trying to get back, and consolidate, the top ranking.

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    Cricketer Of The Year Arjun's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Manee View Post
    Yes. I'm leaning too toward the fact that perhaps we try too many youngsters in Test cricket such as: Mukund, Kohli, Raina, whereas the likes of Badrinath or Jaffer would have been better options. Raina has a poor FC batting record, how is he expected to better that at Test level when Ranji Trophy often contains many poor bowling line ups. It is not the same situation as Collingwood, Vaughan or Trescothick because county cricket is a pretty high level of competition and has a fair share of tricky batting conditions.
    Raina's a slightly strange case. He's actually crossed fifty FC games outside Tests, but he's still someone who's made it big because of his age. He doesn't add any value to his place in the side, except for his age.

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    Cricketer Of The Year Arjun's Avatar
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    Look at this XI we know and love...and this silly XI loved by selectors, coach and captain
    Code:
    Jaffer.........A Mukund
    Dhawan.........M Vijay
    Badrinath......CA Pujara
    Mazumdar.......V Kohli
    Manhas.........RG Sharma
    Karthik........WP Saha
    Shukla.........RA Jadeja/AL Menaria
    Vinay Kumar....Abhimanyu Mithun
    Mishra.........PP Ojha
    M Kartik.......JD Unadkat
    Pankaj Singh...U Yadav
    Clearly, this is the XI from which we need players to make a World #1 team. The selectors and management, however, chose the other.

    Both Raina and Rahane are strange cases. Both have completed over 50 FC games outside Tests, but while Raina has made it largely due to his youth and has been found wanting, Rahane is still stuck in the domestic scene, and gobbling up bowlers well below international standard, and is yet to prove himself against quality bowling.

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    Virat Kohli (c) Jono's Avatar
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    Jaffer is very ordinary. Do not want to see him playing for India again. Definition of a guy who piles on the runs at FC level but is not cut out for test cricket.
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    Cricketer Of The Year Arjun's Avatar
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    As backup for Sehwag and Gambhir, he's the best they have, and a far, far, far better choice than Mukund and Vijay, whose lack of domestic experience shows.

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    Global Moderator Prince EWS's Avatar
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    I'm going to go against the grain here and say that, as someone who follows domestic cricket all around the world pretty closely, India's First Class setup seems almost perfect to me. There are two main 'styles' of First Class domestic structures around the world and India seems to have combined the best of both worlds; if there's to be a fall-guy for India's poor series, it should not be this.

    The English domestic structure works on the principles of tradition, meaningful rivalry, volume of cricket and opportunity to all. There are heaps of county teams that all have history going back decades if not centuries and the teams are meaningful in a way that goes past merely beyond supplying the national team. They cram heaps of cricket into their season. The main advantages of this are young players getting lots of meaningful experience quickly, all potential Test players getting a run (national selectors aren't hamstrung by domestic selectors) and there's lots of opportunity for players to improve while playing legitimately meaningful First Class cricket. The downsides of it are the fact that the quality can be diluted by the number of the teams at times, quality can be lost and blend into the background of 'minnow-bashing' type domestic heroes and the two division system can make Division II performances somewhat irrelevant when it comes to Test aspirations. A gap in created between Test and domestic cricket that need not be there if there were fewer teams.

    On the flip-side you have the Australian-like system, which South Africa and Zimbabwe have recently restructured themselves into, whereby there are fewer teams (around 6) and fewer matches overall. The advantages of this are of course the higher standard you get with it and the smaller class difference between it and Test cricket, as well as the higher intensity and pressure to perform that fewer matches creates as opposed to the daily grind - it almost simulates Test cricket pressure in a way. There are downsides to this too, though - firstly, in the case of South Africa and Zimbabwe, they've abandoned traditional cricketing provinces for this meaning the domestic competition now acts purely as a feeder competition for the national side with traditional passion and rivalry within the teams itself. It can also create a situation where the best players in the country are stuck playing grade cricket for whatever reason - balance, poor selection, uneven distribution and all sorts of things can become major issues when you have fewer teams. Australia is seeing this now with the spinner problem - there's only one spinner per Sheffield Shield team so when a few retirements happened at the same time they only had a couple to pick from and they had dreadful records. With more teams, the likes of Beer, McGain, Hauritz, Bailey, Lyon and O'Keefe who were killing grade cricket would've had a lot more First Class experience and would've developed their skill to a higher level earlier.

    India, in many ways, have both. I love the structure for the most part. They have the Ranji Trophy which gives everyone from around the country plenty of experience in consistent, meaningful, professional cricket - everyone has opportunity to stand out and develop properly in a serious First Class structure against all the best players in the country. On top of that they also have the Duleep Trophy, which I know Arjun doesn't have a lot of time for, but this competition adds the benefits of the Australian-style system without the downsides - it's a high-quality, solvent competition involving the cream of the crop in some high intensity, high quality matches.

    My only recommendation would be to extend the Duleep Trophy a little bit so it was a genuine round robin again, even if it meant cutting the Ranji Trophy down by a couple of weeks. This is the competition that should be really catching the eyes of the selectors and the Ranji Trophy, played earlier in the season, should be giving numerous players an opportunity to force their way into these zonal teams.

    Of course, it'd definitely help if the national selectors actually paid more attention to these competitions in general, but I don't think there's much wrong with the system itself.
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    Cricketer Of The Year Arjun's Avatar
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    I know this thread has more of a Ranji bias, but the Duleep Trophy has its fair share of advanages, and problems as well, though not its fault. The Duleep Trophy is a zonal competition, so the cream of the crop make the grade. It is best played in an off-season, so that each team has its national players. While it provides much higher quality, it gets hampered with the Indian frontline players on national duty, so the teams are very average. Worse, one welcome innovation of having two groups of three with an invitational team from abroad, was scrapped, and the tournament became a knockout. You can't build a national team from this mess.

    As Cribb says, it is a good system, but the BCCI and the selectors need to take it seriously. While the BCCI's scheduling and needless Duleep restructuring has hampered the domestic season,, proven domestic performers are often ignored by selectors, and youngsters are picked after merely one season. It sends a wrong signal, as I said before, and will cause a few negative practices in the circuit.

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