The least the BCCI should do is accept that something is wrong instead of living in denial

It is painful to witness the state of Duleep Trophy today. Only the people who lived in that age know the importance it used to command.

Fifty years ago it was initiated because players could represent their respective zones. Very few tournaments existed to gauge the calibre of players.

A match between West and South zone would be houseful at the Brabourne stadium. The clash between the top class bowling of South and the solid batting line-up of West would make people watch with bated breath.

The Irani Trophy was one trophy that became a selection trial for the Indian team. There were many who managed to make it to the Indian team on the basis of a solitary performance in this trophy.

It was unfair to others who performed through the season but the Duleep and Irani trophies always remained the two biggest gateways to get into the Indian team.

Drastic drop

But things aren’t the same. For the past few years, top players have been opting out of the two even when they are available. And perhaps because of excess of cricket, the level of performance has dropped drastically.

The technical committee did take measures to improve the standard of these tournaments but things haven’t changed. Top stars use it as a springboard, playing when they are out of the Indian team but ceasing to play once they get selected again.

The BCCI bigwigs realise the banality of these tournaments but they also realise the sentimental value they hold. Since the Elite and Plate groups were initiated and the three groups were added, teams in one zone don’t even play against teams from their zone. They play only against a better opposition.

When the entire purpose and charm of the old Duleep Trophy has been changed, what is the point of it? One suggestion is that the three teams for the Duleep Trophy may represent three groups and add one team of rest. This will increase competition among the groups to become the representative. As of now, there is no criteria for selection in the Duleep Trophy format and thus there is no chance of logical selection. We will continue to see non-performers getting selected.

No recovery period

It is true that playing too many inconsequential tournaments affect the fitness of medium pacers. They cannot say no to playing because every performance of theirs counts. And when they get unfit, no recovery period is granted to them.

A popular thing to say is that England players play far more domestic matches than us. They don’t. Also, those who play for the national team are not relieved from playing county matches.

Their fitness is monitored on daily basis and there is a perfect coordination between the England coach, selection committee and the ECB High Performance centre.

Indian cricket lacks any such coordination or foresight. All the experienced medium pacers of India have lost their strengths. There is only one week for the series against the West Indies to begin but except for Bhuvnesh Kumar, India doesn’t have a bowler of international fitness.

And to think of it, we are the country which has 27 teams taking part in the Ranji Trophy. With three pacers playing in each team, we should have a pool of 81 effective medium-pacers but we don’t even have a dozen. Isn’t this signal enough for the BCCI that the domestic calendar has to be rethought?

An experienced Ranji pacer suggested a conclave of pacers where problems can be discussed. A conclave might not solve our present crisis, but it can be a start. The least the BCCI should do is accept that something is wrong instead of living in denial.