The BCCI progress to have Ranji Trophy matches at neutral venues failed unhappily in its first challenge, according to top domestic players who say that the idea did not work due to the apathy of the host associations and poor planning.
The BCCI has announced that the concept to make the tournament more aggressive by negating the home advantage those teams earlier should exploit and exposing the players to different conditions.
The national cricket expert Rajat Bhatia said “The idea was good but the implementation was third class. Most host associations did not show interest in organising matches for other teams. The facilities were poor, be it providing us with good wickets, adequate balls or serving decent food. It could have been handled much better.”
The Delhi-based cricketer has played for three states and is recent with Rajasthan; Bhatia was quietly scathing in his criticism. “The system was introduced to stop teams from taking undue home advantage with games often finishing inside two days. But the quality did not improve even though games were held at neutral venues.”
The 37-years-old said “Take our match against Assam in Vizag for example. The wicket was not fit enough for a First-Class match and therefore the match was over well inside three days. And it was just two weeks before an international match. The groundsmen did not have much to say when we asked them why we were made to play on such a poor surface.”
Another issue for the players was scheduling of the game since they had to travel to distant areas with limited time in hand. The 22-years-old Gujarat and Indian spinner said “Scheduling was a big problem. Sometimes there was just a three-day gap between games and we had to travel to places which were not easily accessible, which meant we had to spend a lot of time on the road in buses.”
The senior player who criticized the concept is Tamil Nadu opener Abhinav Mukund. The 27-years-old said during the tournament, “No one actually gives a damn about the wickets that are being prepared. Everyone’s playing safe, which is why people are scoring more than 1000 runs, and I don’t see many spinners coming into play.”
“I don’t like this concept mainly because of the fact that there’s no continuity. You play throughout the year in one condition it’s really important to play at home.”
Bhatia said that BCCI can still continue with neutral venues provided the execution, “I think it was a very good idea especially after you had introduced pink-ball cricket in Duleep Trophy. It was held at a neutral venue (in Greater Noida), but crowd turned up. The BCCI could have done the same with Ranji Trophy. You got to promote it the right way. Otherwise, there is little point in doing something new.”