How good is the Duleep Trophy? Logically, a tournament played between five zones comprising of the best players from each of them ought to be good—right? Then why are the voices calling for the scrapping of this coveted tournament getting louder by the day? Well, since most of these appeals are coming straight from the players, something must be hugely amiss—time to wake up and smell the coffee.
What is it about the Duleep Trophy that isn’t going down well with the participants? Has the standard come down? Is it making the domestic calendar too crowded? Or, has it ceased to hold any real sense? Let’s delve deeper into the issues plaguing this premier domestic tournament.
Till a few years back, when played on ‘round-robin basis, Duleep Trophy was its peak. Those were days when all the zones played against each other on home and away basis, which meant enough opportunities for the players to perform, also testing their mettle in different conditions in the process. Since the tournament was at least 4 weeks long, the assortment of players would begin to function like a team, which is essential to produce competitive cricket.
In the current scenario, Duleep trophy is a knockout tournament—2 teams play only 1 match each, 2 teams can play a maximum of 2 matches each and only 1 team can play 3 matches. Now, how much would you read into the performances of Duleep trophy when most players get only a couple of innings to showcase their wares? Are a couple of innings a just reward for scoring heavily or taking a bagful of wickets in the Ranji trophy? For instance, if Central Zone loses their first match, both the highest run-scorer and the highest wicket-taker will get only one opportunity as a reward for their hard work. More, crucial national selections take Duleep Trophy performances as a yardstick to judge a player—Fair?
At Rahul Dravid’s behest, thankfully, the Duleep trophy is now played with the Kookaburra ball instead of the SG Test ball, which still continues to be used in the Ranji trophy circuit. It was a wonderful move to allow our domestic players a taste of Kookaburra, a ball that behaves radically different to the SG Test ball. While the SG Test ball responds the best to swing bowlers who release the ball, Kookaburra is at its best when you hit the pitch hard. SG Test ball rarely swings while it’s new but starts moving in the air after it gets a little old. On the contrary, Kookaburra moves the most while it’s new and ceases to swing after getting old. Obviously then, it was a novel move—after all Kookaburra is the one used overseas. But here’s the catch—playing once a year with the Kookaburra isn’t enough to modify the skill set. Even if you manage to get the hang of it and adapt well, you’re most likely to forget it in a year. Muscle memory isn’t sharp enough to register the changes and remember it for a year.
Starting from scratch year after year isn’t a great idea after all.
In the ‘zone’
Not so long ago, when the Ranji trophy was played within the respective zones, having a team comprising of the best of each zone in the Duleep Trophy meant something, since most players played against each other in the Ranji trophy and there was an immediate sense of cohesiveness for the zonal side. But now, with Ranji trophy being divided into Elite and Plate grouping system—based on a team’s performance, selecting the best players within the zone makes little sense. How can one treat the performances in Elite and Plate group equally? Also, as it happens, the bigger teams tend to influence the Zonal team selections far more—no matter how Mumbai, Delhi Punjab and U.P fared in the Ranji trophy—this year three of them didn’t even qualify for the knock-outs, these heavy weights always find the maximum representation in their respective zonal side. How else would you explain 5 players from U.P. in the Central Zone when their team didn’t even qualify for the knockouts and only 4 from Rajasthan—out of which one may not even find a place in IX—this when Rajasthan defended the Ranji trophy successfully.
This entry was posted on Friday, February 3rd, 2012 at 10:49 am
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