A few days ago, Narayan Jagadeesan’s huge 277 in the Vijay Hazare Trophy was the talk of the town. The wicketkeeper-batsman broke numerous records during his 141-ball article and became the only batsman on the planet to make five consecutive List A hundreds. It was indeed a dream outing for the right but not for its opposition, Arunachal Pradesh.
The NorthEast side first conceded 506/2 after putting in Tamil Nadu to bat and later compiled just 71 from inside their 29 overs. The result: TN has a record 435 wins in the 50-over competition. This was their fifth defeat in seven matches and two of their matches yielded no results. They lost against Kerala by nine wickets, fell against Andhra by 261 runs and were defeated by Haryana by 306 runs. Not just Arunachal, all teams from NorthEast have similar outings and the top 10 (excluding MP vs Baroda) biggest wins of the tournament are recorded in matches featuring them.
Just this year, the group of plates, comprising mostly teams from the NorthEast and teams relegated from the elite group, was removed, and the teams were divided into five groups – three from eight groups and two from each group. Teams like Manipur, Meghalaya and Sikkim were pitted alongside teams like Delhi, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh, resulting in one of the most lopsided contests the tournament has seen.
Except for Meghalaya, which beat Sikkim, no other team managed to win and was completely outclassed by their opponent. Since the conclusion of the group stage of the Vijay Hazare Trophy, the scheduling and assembly have come under much criticism and calls for a reconsideration have grown. In an exclusive conversation with Cricketnext.com, ex India Cricketer Akash Chopra echoed the general sentiment and feels that it is very important to have the right structure and that patience is the need of the hour with new teams.
“It’s a lofty idea, a great idea (for NE teams grouped with regulars) but the idea is no less great in execution. I think the Lodha committee wanted to popularize the game and for each state to have its own Ranji team. The principle is ok because India is a country with a population of 1.4 billion people, but if you’re not going to prepare them for what lies ahead and throw them into the deep end and then blame them for drowning… It’s not fair because you didn’t study from them at all. It’s really unfortunate that without preparing the structure… It’s systemic. It starts with a U -16 and U-19 Then you prepare for the age group, then you start with the Ranji Trophy plate and then on to the elite. That’s how the system should always be. If you’re going to skip the stairs and take the elevator, see what happens. I’m not privy to all the developments, but there are a lot of Players who are from bigger teams, and couldn’t qualify in Mumbai or whatnot, they end up playing in these federations. So how you help their cause, I have no idea,” says Chopra.
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Chopra agrees with the idea of three professional players playing in these teams but wants to check out the local part so that local talent can be groomed and prepared for the future.
“I’m fine with three pros but if you end up making three guys from abroad and see them as home players it defeats the purpose. There are three pros within the rules but the moment you start finding loopholes then the whole intent kills itself. The longer the game, the bigger the gulf,” says Chopra.
It’s time to stick to the landing, plate form
The relegation plate model allowed most Near East teams to compete first against each other before making the next move. It was in effect until last year but this year the board decided to have elite groups in place for the Vijay Hazard Cup.
A version similar to the old model will be played when the Ranji Trophy starts next month. The Plate and Elite groups will have different titles to play and the finalists from the Plate group will be promoted to the elite group for the upcoming Ranji Trophy.
“I think that’s the way forward. And we have to let everyone grow. Growth and development are very important. It has to be addressed because then the numbers are softened. How do you measure a certain performance…it’s going to get really tough,” Chopra says.
One NE team for the BCCI Championships?
Aside from reintroducing the plate model, there have been calls for even one team from the Northeast with players from all states making one team and competing in major local rivalries. There was a sneak peek of this model at the show when NorthEast participated in the Duleep Trophy. The selectors did not choose any professional players on the team and only home-grown players made the cut. They played the West Zone in the Championship and were on the field for 123 matches as hundreds of Ajinkya Rahane and Yashasvi Jaiswal kept the inexperienced unit hunting for hides for most of the game. The match ended in a draw, and the West Zone took the lead in the first half.
Chopra does not advocate bringing teams from northeastern Europe under one umbrella and feels strongly that the passion in the country will produce results and players from every angle.
“Look let’s not do that. The passion we have in this country for the game, if you put your mind to the fore and your heart in the right place, results will follow. There are enough numbers so why put them all together? Not fair. Give them time. Give them structure and you’ll get results. When you’ve played For Rajasthan, I think in 2011…till that time they haven’t won the Ranji Trophy at all.Himachal Pradesh has yet to win the Ranji Trophy, and Jammu and Kashmir still haven’t qualified for the finals at all.So that’s the kind of time it takes.When you look at those The numbers you see next. Tamil Nadu being a cricketing powerhouse in South India has very little to show in the Ranji Trophy. When the established structures have plenty of time to get results in our favour, we have to be patient with these newer teams or it won’t happen.” .