Domestic Cricket
First Class Not Secondary
6 years, 6 months ago Posted in: Domestic Cricket, IPL 20
First Class Not Secondary

At the cost of sounding cynical, I’d like to introduce you to a fine young man, 24 years old currently playing his second season of first class cricket. In his debut season a year ago, he’d heaped runs in hundreds and made everyone sit up and take notice—to pull off a stellar performance on your debut is no mean feat. As a worthy remuneration, he was awarded an IPL deal and there too went on to impress one and sundry. Why then should one be so disapproving of him? Well, he’s back at playing domestic cricket and the longer format—only this year it fails to charm him. So alluring the IPL has been for him that a bland, long-winded first class cricket fails to stimulate him anymore. Still stuck in the IPL mode, he scandalously plays a-shot-a-ball in test match cricket. It seems he’s biding his time, treating first class cricket as a net session for the coveted IPL. He’s both young and talented and one only wishes him well—I’m afraid though, he may have missed the point by a mile. Much like another 29 year old seasoned pro—a fast bowler who earned quite a name ever since he made his foray in the Ranji circuit. Lately though, one can see him go through the proceedings of a Ranji game with an air of indifference. He wasn’t always like this—in fact he’d been a workhorse for nearly a decade and tasted success at various levels. Then a couple of years ago, he was picked up by an IPL franchise, which thankfully gave him his share of recognition and the moolah. Yet, the writing on the wall is clear now—if he continues to play cricket with the attitude he displays in a Ranji trophy game, his end is a lot nearer than he assumes.

I am not calling the IPL ‘Satan’—only drawing attention towards a much deeper problem. A lot of people in my fraternity are beginning to believe that as long as they do well in the IPL, nothing else matters. Certain selections for Team India also validate their claim about the futility of toiling hard for 5 months in the first-class circuit. They still continue to play domestic cricket but only to comply with the rule of a minimum 60% participation in first-class circuit to be eligible to play in the IPL. More, they use these five months as a pre-season training program for the all-important IPL and hence don’t lose their sleep if they underperform often.

That’s where they’re getting it completely wrong—firstly, let’s stop treating first-class cricket as a second grade citizen. The Indian domestic structure has for years tested and primed players who’ve gone on to win the country its many honors. It’s a worthy check of a player’s technique and temperament. Secondly, players who believe that it’s rather simple to do well in the IPL season after season, without playing any sort of competitive cricket in between, are living in fools’ paradise. Leave apart the perils of developing a dishonest attitude towards the game—after all actions don’t take long to become character. Anyway, if underperforming becomes your second nature, chances are that even skills won’t show up when summoned.

Country’s premier domestic tournament deserves respect, both by the cricketers and the officials. The IPL is a great concept and hence should be promoted and accepted fully, but not in opposition to first-class cricket.

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20 Responses

  1. Nikhil says:

    Dear Akash(India’s 245th Test cricketer)

    I have been an avid reader of all your columns, books and of course tweets. My best friend plays for the UP Ranji team and I have the highest regard for first class cricketers. I don’t know who are the 2 cricketers referred above, neither do I want to know about them.

    However my point is that it is incorrect to blame them when a former India Captain (also referred to as Tiger in Eastern India) publicly admits to playing the Ranji Trophy only to be ready for the rigours of IPL!! If senior pros like him who have earned name and fame from the game can set such examples for the generation next, then why blame these players who have not ever had the blue India cap?

    You may argue that the former India captain referred above has proved it all and hence his behaviour is justified but for me it sounds even more irresponsible on his part to set such a path for future cricketers.

    Would like to hear your viewpoint on this.

    Yet another Indian cricket enthusiast,

    • Aakash says:

      I couldn’t agree with you more. While I know what you’re referring to you is correct, I’d still expect, perhaps too optimistically, the younger lot to tread carefully. The player you mentioned in your comment has finished his innings and the rest have just started. Hope the better sense prevails.

      • Nikhil says:

        Dear Akash,

        Since the ‘player’ has finished his innings, it makes me that much more worried about where we are headed as a cricketing nation. He is free to play in the IPL but there are other ways to keep yourself ready for the rigours of T20. Why not play T20 club cricket? Why play the 4 day format?

        Why not make Ranji Trophy more lucrative and reduce the T20 budgets? We must remember that this is generation Z (Days of Gen X and Gen Y are over). Walkmans have been replaced by Iphones/Ipads, scooters have been replaced by sports bikes and telegrams have given way to tweets. It’s an impatient fast moving generation and hence T20 thrives. So its existence cannot be denied but if you make the 4 day format highly paying, I can see this generation going back from tweets to emails.

        Optimistic cricket enthusiast,

    • srinin says:

      Nikhil, I dread what will happen to this comment section if the ‘fans’ of that Bengal Tiger read your comment – an honest query! However to me it appears that the Tiger you are referring to is not driven by anything except a slighted ego and the need to prove to everyone that his valuation needs to be much much higher – not bcz he needs that money but he does not want to be be seen as any less a priced possession than anyone coming under the auction hammer. Ofc your apprehensions about his statement being misinterpreted and setting a bad example is genuine. But all times are we not supposed to use our intelligence and decide how to take words and events?

      • Nikhil says:

        Dear Srinin,

        Let me take you deeper into Tiger’s story now that you have provoked me. ;-)

        Our Tiger did not retire from international cricket, he was forced to retire from the game his contemporaries like Dravid & Laxman are still playing (Sachin is in another class). Any tiger who has tasted blood (pun intended) at international level and been a successful leader of an ordinary bunch of men will not like to be told when to stop hunting.

        He then wanted the BCCI to realise its mistake by proving it to them that there is still cricket left in him. It is certainly not money which drives him but that ego which you rightly referred to and in doing so he has occupied an important slot in Bengal’s Ranji team which should have been preserved for a budding Tiger (and not an old one).

        If this is the way Tiger sees Indian cricket moving ahead then so be it. I would rather have him as Bengal’s head coach rather than a number 5 batsman.

        Cricket Enthusiast,

  2. srinin says:

    It was to be expected. In mid 90s started a trend that made every boy dream of getting an IT degree, go to US and make money for life. The dotcom burst followed very soon.

    Fundamentally when people dont understand the linkages between demand and supply chain these short sighted approaches will continue. Sustaining performance even in T20 is not possible over a period of time without really acquiring reasonable skills. You can make quick money but as the tragic cases of tennis players like Borg and Becker show, fool and his money will be soon parted.

  3. Sohil Gandhi says:

    Dear Akash,
    I agree with Nikhil!!

    Isnt it obvious that the senior pro is playing the Ranji trophy for getting into IPL team and not for the sake of the Ranji Team he is playing for.

    To me it seems that he is occupying a seat in the team a couple of youngsters should be fighting for. If youngsters are not getting their opportunities , whose door are they going to knock?

    Wouldn’t this ruin a youngsters whole year? A year for a youngster trying to find a place in team is more important than a retired cricketer trying to get into an IPL team?

    • Aakash says:

      Yes, it does mean occupying a youngster’s slot. But on the contrary, if we have a seasoned cricketer like Dravid or Sachin playing the Ranji trophy after their International career is over, it will give youngsters a lesson on work ethics etc.

  4. Sriram says:

    Excellent point made by Nikhil.

    I strongly believe that the current IPL auction rules can lead to corruption. You should have got a India cap to be eligible in the auction. Saurabh Tiwary got one, went into action and got a meaty contract. Whereas Rayudu didn’t get the cap, so has been fitted into the salary slab.

    Ok, the question is – where is Saurabh Tiwary now? He has been out of the Indian team for almost a year now and played 2-3 matches for India.

    Ok, am a fringe player, I will make a deal with the Indian selectors so that I can get into auction. IPL and its rules lead to corruption.

  5. Dilipkumar Patel says:

    I believe Ranji is most prominent first class tournament of India, it deserves importance next to International cricket and IPL. All group matches should be played home and away, so most players will get chance to show their talent. Imagine some player with 2-3 months injury misses whole important first class year. Ranji season should be from Oct – March/April. So players do not burn out by playing back to back matches. I don’t think they T-20 First class tournament should be played. 50 overs matches should be arranged day-night and seriously should be tried to bring some crowd in, these 50 overs matches helps state associations to test their bench players. Foreign professionals can be brought in, this will improve the quality further and our first class cricketers can learn from them.

    The quality of pitches and outfield should be made equivalent to International cricket, this will improve fielding. By creating sporting wickets (either Spin or Bouncy) will create equal chance for batters and bowlers. Then only we will have technically correct players for International matches who can play swing and bounce. Every year we have 18 wickets a day or 700 runs innings pitches, those are meaningless surfaces which do not help anyone. I think these things are told by many many people, perhaps BCCI will realize that to be top / No. 1 team in world, first class cricket is no more second class. If BCCI can replicate 50% of IPL efforts, it can be great help for Indian Cricket.

    Thanks for giving us the platform to express here.

  6. Shilpa says:

    Fist Class(FC) cricket prepares the talented cricketers for a long term international career in tests and ODIs.

    International recognition ( in tests and ODIs) creates a high value ( and high paid) star for IPL….and most aspirant cricketers for the highest level of success undertsand….that you don´t become a real big IPL star without international success.

    There are relatively minor 2 category of players:

    1) Fading international stars…..not having the belief or will power to put the hard work in FC cricket to make the international return…..go through the motions in Ranji, with a reasonable IPL contrcat in hand….nehra, RP, Shalabh Srivastav, Trivedi and a few others come to mind.

    2) Very, very young stars, who in their first seasons haven’t figured that without international success there is little longevity and stardom in IPL…the likes of Valathy and Manish Pandey I believe have figured as much.
    Pandey,s FC record in looking good and Valathy opted to play for HP in Ranji when Jaffer stated some straight thoughts about Valathy’s prospects of breaking in Mumbai FC side

  7. shilpa says:

    Aakash…congratualtions on making it to the Ranji Finals?

    From the look of the scorecard…it seemed like rather seam bowling friendly conditions?

    is that True?


  8. shilpa says:

    Dear Aakash,
    How is Rituraj singh….was the MOM in semis and Cricinfo is reporting him anotehr find for Rajasthan.

    Has he got pace?


    • Aakash says:

      He isn’t quick but very effective, especially, on helpful surfaces. I’d hold my thoughts till he bowls on flat surfaces.

      • shilpa says:

        Dear aakash,
        thx for your thoughts on RR singh.

        He did pick some wkts in the final on a relatively flatter ptich…not a bucketful like the semis and still quite a few ( 4-fer) including plucking out the top 3 of TN very quickly together with Pankaj.

        I hope he turns out to be an india prospect…maybe like Praveenk Kumar type.


  9. shilpa says:

    Dear aakash,
    I see that there was anotehr BCCI meeting couple of days back and this time you were not invited.

    I think this is because of your association with CricInfo recently…whihc is an over_aggressive BCCI bashing site to the extent that it is percieved as blanked-anti_BCCI

    So those who are wholely associated with CI….must be mindful that it might be difficult to get roles with BCCI establishments in future.

    Make your choices based on that knowldege.


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