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Ranji Trophy: the 22-yard conundrum

Here are some of the facts: 1443 runs for the loss of 13 wickets in Pune while 1316 runs were scored in four days but only 12 wickets fell in Surat. 10 wickets lost for 1100 runs in Chennai and a modest 1057 runs for the loss of 20 wickets in Rajasthan. These are not the scores of a user-friendly video-game where a bowler is programmed to just help the batsman score mammoth scores. This is the sorry state-of-affairs in the on-going Ranji Trophy matches. The second round matches at some of the venues were played on the tracks which were probably designed to murder the men who we empathize and call “bowlers.”

The second-round of the Ranji Trophy matches witnessed 34 hundreds, this included a couple of triple-hundreds as well – 327 from Kedar Jadhav for Maharashtra and 303 from Ravindra Jadeja for Saurashtra. The Saurashtra stumper, Sagar Jogiyani narrowly missed the triple-hundred mark by 18 runs. Piyush Chawla better known for his leg spin bowling (and also for how he makes it to any World Cup squad), scored 156 runs against Maharashtra at Subrata Sahara Stadium, Pune.

The picturesque Subrata Sahara Stadium is a death knell for bowlers.

The 2006 Sanjay Dutt starer Lage Raho Munna Bhai has a very interesting mention of cricket. When Munna Bhai and his side-kick Circuit take on the astrologer, Batuk Maharaj, there is an interesting cricketing example used by Circuit to dismiss astrologer’s superstition. Circuit says that if his (Maharaj’s) predictions are so accurate, he should point out Indian cricketers whose horoscopes forecast centuries. The team hence would never lose and shall always score 1100 not out. But today Circuit’s hyperbole is not a joke any more. It is a reality which is making life miserable for the bowlers.

Looking at the ease with which the batsmen are batting, it seems, even 15 days would not be enough to finish these games. The timeless Durban Test match is unparalleled in the cricketing annals. The match finished on the tenth day. England needed 696 runs for a victory in the fourth innings. The English team was just 42 runs shy of the target with five wickets in hand. The match got over because England team had to catch a last train from Durban to reach Cape Town. From Cape Town, they had to catch a ship which was going to England. Since another ship was not available for months, this was a ship named “Athlone Castle”, was what every Englishman was thinking about after gruelling ten days of hard-fought cricket. Yet a member of the English touring party quipped, “If only we had one more hour…we would have won the match”.

Surely we do not expect the curators to create wickets like the ones we saw at Moti Bagh, Vadodara or Karnail Singh Stadium, New Delhi. The matches got over in two days on those venues. There needs to be a proper balance. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) should intervene and have their say in the matters related to the 22-yards. It took several objections, complaints and then setting up of a committee to decide the fate of Karnail Singh Stadium’s future. It is rightly banned from hosting any matches for this domestic season. The question is should a similar yardstick be imposed on the flat decks across the country?

The Karnail Singh Stadium, New Delhi was banned by the BCCI this season. In the last season the pitch used for the game between Railways and Saurashtra, was found to be in poor conditions

Where are the sporting wickets? How would such wickets infuse a fresh breath of air in the domestic competitions, which have become dour, thanks primarily to the 22-yard talk? Is there any meaning to this competition which fails to gauge a batsman’s ability and dithers the bowler’s spirits. The Chairman of BCCI’s pitches and grounds committee, Daljit Singh has a gargantuan task ahead of him. It is interesting to know that BCCI had setup the guidelines regarding the pitches for the domestic competitions. The first innings score should be in the region of 550 runs, and the wicket should not turn square. Often the curators lean towards the first directive and completely negate the possibility of any turn on the wicket. This is killing the competition.

BCCI has come up with a certification course for the curators, which has started from this year. Hopefully this initiative would save the domestic competitions in the future which have become BORING. We need quality curators more than big run-scorers and wicket-takers

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