Why Karnataka should have two Ranji teams
The Karnataka cricket team is one of the most prominent teams in the Indian domestic circuit and has had great success in the nation’s first class tournament, the Ranji Trophy. It has produced great players consistently for the national side and there was time during the late ’90s when 8 out of 11 players hailed from Karnataka. In total, it has won 8 Ranji Trophy titles, 6 Irani trophies, 3 Vijay Hazare trophies and latest being the Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament. In the process, the team became only the 6th team to win all the major tournaments.
Karnataka, the biggest state in south India, has always produced exceptional cricketers. But the problem for Karnataka has been a surfeit of talent. Majority of the Ranji players hail from the state capital Bengaluru. People from other parts of Karnataka have to settle and play in Bengaluru to have the best shot to represent the state team and further the national team.
Despite having world-class facilities, it has failed to consistently produce cricketers from other parts of Karnataka. It becomes extremely difficult for people from other parts of Karnataka, such as north Karnataka and Dakshina Kannada to make an impact at the professional level. Selection of the state team in a scenario that offers a basket of urban talent from Bengaluru and Mysuru could result in the risk of leaning unevenly one way or the other.
So why not split Karnataka itself into two Ranji teams - North Karnataka and South Karnataka or even have Bengaluru as one team and the remaining part of Karnataka as the other?
By dividing up the teams, the structure of the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) will undoubtedly improve, providing more opportunities to the players coming from other cities such as Hubli, Belgaum, Bijapur, Udupi, Madikeri, Chitradurga, Shivamogga etc. It also means the selectors can breathe easily by not having to sacrifice superb talents to tier-2 competitions in the state or to other states such as Goa and Vidarbha. Ganesh Satish, the Davanagere keeper, shifted from Karnataka and is now a part of the winning team Vidarbha. Robin Uthappa, the 2007 World T20 winner, too has joined Saurashtra after his 15-year-stint with Karnataka as he wasn't making it to playing eleven often. And for greater opportunities, the talented batsman from Coorg has shifted to the Rajkot based side for domestic competitions.
There are so many states with more than one Ranji team. Gujarat has as many 3 Ranji teams in Saurashtra, Baroda and of course Gujarat. Maharastra has teams in Vidarbha and Maharastra, while Mumbai (Bombay) has its own team. Even Karnataka’s neighbours Andra Pradesh fields two teams in Hyderabad and Andra Pradesh. In north India, there is a new team born whenever a new state is born. There are a total of 37 teams across the 29 states participating in the Ranji Trophy. So for a state as big as Karnataka, it does makes sense to have at least 2 teams to unearth greater talents.
Most of the talented players from Karnataka miss out on final selections due to tough competitions while some miss out due to geographical constraints. Because of the location disadvantage, many don’t get to play quality games and as a result, very few Grade A players come from other parts of the state. Sunil Joshi from Gadag is the only cricketer to have represented India from this part of the world. With IPL scouts reaching out to different tier-2 competitions, few talents such as Kishore Kamat and Pavan Deshpande capable of holding their own against quality international players have been tracked down, but the overall picture has been far from satisfactory. If the break up of the state happens as suggested, a similar and more pronounced effect can be achieved and a significant number of vivid talents can perform at the bigger stage, in turn helping the state and the national cricket.
So, considering all the above factors and considering KSCA’s high budget and facilities, it would be an ideal scenario now for the KSCA to request the higher bodies for separate teams to field in the Ranji Trophy. The move will undoubtedly help more players come from other parts of the state and give them an equal opportunity to showcase their talent.
In KSCA’s favour, it already owns quite a few quality stadiums across the state, one of them being the Rajnagar stadium in Hubli that hosts at least a couple of Ranji games every season and the state-run Karnataka Premier League. The stadium even hosted India A vs West Indies A in the past and if presented with an opportunity, could be a leading centre of sports other than Bengaluru in Karnataka. A similar model can be approached in Tamil Nadu and Uttar-Pradesh that observes a similar problem, resulting in fewer players making it to the big stage.