Bihar Cricket's resurgence and Uttarakhand's rise good signs for domestic cricket
Yes, they were pitted against only the new teams in their group stage. A few veterans from other states were also added to their squads to give them the initial boost. But to come out on top after eight tough matches each would certainly go a long way in impressing BCCI as well as their respective state boards.
Before proceeding ahead, I would also like to congratulate all of Puducherry, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Sikkim equally. I'd like to congratulate their players for putting up a fight. And to their respective boards for putting up a show. And last, but not the least, to BCCI - for encouraging players from all parts of the country to represent their own states and territories - while trying to win an Indian cap.
After a gruelling first round, comeback team Bihar has emerged the topper of the Plate Group (which included all the nine new teams, including Bihar) while Uttarakhand finished second. Both the teams will play in the quarterfinals, as will the top two teams from each of the three other groups. In less than a week's time, Bihar and Uttarakhand will be battling against the top teams that emerged out of other groups.
While Puducherry and Nagaland - also equipped with experienced players from other states - were still in contention for a quarterfinal berth, a four-point difference between the second (Uttarakhand) and the third team (Puducherry) was good enough to knock them out. All the players from each of the sides tried their best, but the neck tight format this season has prevented even top sides such as Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Punjab and Baroda from a place in the second round - the quarter-finals.
Top performers from Bihar included Babul Kumar, Rahmatullah, Ranjan, Ashutosh Aman, Samar Quadri, Anunay Singh and Rehan Khan - while other players chipped in too. Uttarakhand, on the other hand, benefited from consistent performances by Karanveer Kaushal, Vineet Saxena, Malolan Rangarajan, Saurabh Rawat, Deepak Dhapola, Mayank Mishra and Sunny Rana besides others.
Standout performances from players of these teams - such as Karanveer Kaushal's double century - should certainly turn the heads of the national selectors. Players from these sides will get their due rewards, if not in this season - as the team would not want to experiment much before the World Cup - then in the seasons to follow for sure.
Not only would these teams' participation through the domestic season provide good competition to other teams, but it would also go a long way in giving hope to young budding cricketers from their respective states. Youngsters from Bihar, Uttarakhand, the north-eastern states and Puducherry won't have to move out of their states and fight for a spot in teams such as Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bengal and the southern states year after year now.
Finally, congratulations to BCCI for bringing nine new teams to the domestic season this year around. I just hope BCCI, as well as the local state boards, keep supporting and encouraging cricketers from all nooks and corners of the country.