The increasing rate of triple centuries in Ranji cricket might not be a boon
The scores are now making it difficult to separate the truly talented from the ordinary.
It was always a momentous occasion. As a dreamy-eyed youngster breached the three-figure mark for the first time in Ranji Trophy, his exultation knew no bounds. Ever since he had set sights on playing for the Indian jersey as a 5-year old, he was certain that a score above the nervous nineties would capture the attention of the selectors and if combined with consistency, it would open further doors for him.
But as the years rolled by and the scores of 100 spilled over to 200 and then 300, a wave of dazed confusion crept over the junior circuit. With easing pitches and degrading bowling standards, scores in excess of two hundred and in the recent past, in excess of three hundred have become a phenomena as common as a Virat Kohli ton. And this is where Ranji cricket continues to be in a dilemma.
Since the beginning of the Ranji season last year, we have witnessed scores of more than 200 being notched up thirty one times and scores above 300 eight times! If we extend the rope, a mammoth 25 of the 43 triple centuries in Ranji cricket have been made in the last decade alone, in which 13 batsmen have remained unbeaten after crossing 300. Staggering numbers, to say the least!
What is interesting to note is that between 2000 and 2006 no player was able to score a triple century in an innings. In the 2006-07 and the 2010-11 seasons, just one triple hundred was scored. It is only since 2015 that the numbers and frequency have vastly increased.
What then has attributed to the increased runs in an innings? Are the batsmen so qualified than they had ever been before or are the bowlers finding it tough to consistently pitch in deliveries that spell trouble? Are the pitches too easy to bat on, or is it due to the continued efforts of the Indian Premier League which have led to a change in the mindset of the emerging cricketers?
The scores can be attributed to all of the above. Last season, just ten bowlers who took more than 20 wickets averaged below 20 in the tournament, and only two bowlers could manage a haul of 5-wickets in an innings more than 5 times.
Even though 25 bowlers picked up more than 30 wickets in the season, they were often handicapped by the lack of creativity, and the patience that is required to counter the techniques displayed by the batsmen.
The added incentive of the IPL contract has not gone missing on the players. Though most do cherish the dream of playing for the nation, only 10 players of the 22 triple centurions since 2006 have played for the national side.
Hence, even the domestic players are aware that high scores, including a triple century does not guarantee a place in the Indian team. Hence, a lucrative IPL offer is not a far-fetched thought when they turn out to bat for their respective teams.
As the age-old adage, "excess is bad in every way", is correlated with the increasing triple tons in Ranji cricket, we are faced with a question that becomes crucial for the growth of Indian cricket in the long run.
How do you recognise talent from the crop of triple centurions? How does one differentiate between the average and the extraordinary from a club that was meant to be solely for players possessing very special talents?
Taking nothing away from them, the sad reality is that cricket relies solely on consistency and very often, triple centurions are unable to replicate their purple patch for seasons in succession. Last year's record breaker Samit Gohel has been unable to create firecrackers so far for the Gujarat side and such is also the case with Swapnil Gugale.
Hence, before these achievements turn to mere numbers, it is the onus of the Board of Control for Cricket in India to invest more in competitive pitches and bowling academies, so that a triple century scored can be a momentous occasion and not just another milestone that is attained in the cricket field.