Harbhajan Singh criticises BCCI for ignorance regarding Ranji Cricket
Harbhajan Singh subjected the BCCI to some harsh criticism regarding the state of domestic first-class cricket in India. The veteran bowler had first suggested the concept of playing matches in neutral venues last year, a suggestion that has been backed by Sourav Ganguly and BCCI President Anurag Thakur.
However, quite a few associations were against the idea at the time it was put forward and the concept was eventually mooted. However, it has emerged as a major point of debate and discussion at the conclave of Ranji captains and coaches being held in Mumbai today.
The Indian off-spinner has made his views on the matter very clear. A long time advocate about the topic of neutral venues, the Indian off-spinner believes that there is “no point playing on doctored pitches.”
As quoted by Cricbuzz Harbhajan said, “It's a real concern. The game shouldn't be about ordinary spinners or bowlers taking wickets. It should be about skill, fighting till the end. Domestic cricket has to be about producing champion players, who can do well in any conditions.”
The way forward in making sure that talented cricketers emerge from domestic cricket is to make it a test for versatility, according to Singh. So, a system where players from the South play in the North Zone or a Punjab-based player is asked to adapt to the conditions of Gujarat would work wonders in selecting good players.
Ironically, Harbhajan Singh has admitted that the idea struck him after he claimed ten wickets in a match against Tamil Nadu. The captain of Punjab said, "It was perhaps the best venue that I've played in domestic cricket. There were around five to six thousand people who turned up to watch that match, and the ground was beautiful, lush green. However, when I saw the wicket before the match, I realised that it was unfit for a first-class game.”
Apparently, the wicket was so erratic that it could have easily hurt any batsman. “I didn't enjoy taking wickets in that match at all,” he recalled.
When he had proposed the ideas of neutral venues for the first time, the main point of opposition to this agenda was a drop in spectators and crowd interest regarding a particular match. The idea was particularly opposed by the veteran administrator and president of the Saurashtra Cricket Association, Niranjan Shah who opined that another way to get rid of the “home advantage” was to do away with the toss and give the option to the visiting team to bat or bowl first like they're trying in England this season.
Apart from neutral venues, Harbhajan has also suggested that Duke cricket balls be used in place of the SG balls that are currently given for the tournament. He has cited the Dukes' durability and firmness as a decided advantage of using it. The Dukes, he said, retain their shape and, as a result, a change in the ball is not necessary frequently.
A call for the players to respect first-class cricket was also in order. A growing trend in players was that many of them wore their IPL or Indian Team helmets for the games. Harbhajan called for uniform kits for all the players of the team to promote a certain amount of team spirit among players. First-class cricket, he thinks, is not something to be taken lightly.
He also appealed to the BCCI to make it mandatory for every domestic team to have its own qualified physio and trainer. What remains to be seen now is how seriously the BCCI will take these suggestions.