There is a debate dominating the Chennai cricketing circles these days. Whether or not to have two outstation cricketers in a TNCA first division league team again is the question.

This comes against the backdrop of another abysmal performance by the Tamil Nadu Ranji Trophy side. For the second season running, this former regional powerhouse failed to make it to the quarterfinals. Often, the quality of cricket dished out by the State team was depressing. Tamil Nadu had now been pushed to the margins.

In its bid to arrest the alarming slump, the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) is seriously considering allowing two outstation cricketers in a team to lift the standards of the first division league.

It was after the 2000-2001 season that the TNCA decided to do away with new outstation cricketers to promote local talent. But then, it allowed cricketers from other states, registered here before 2000, to continue.

Thus, we saw cricketers such as Venugopala Rao figuring in the league. Then, in 2006, the TNCA came up with another rule.

Cooling off period

It permitted outstation cricketers to be employed by a company, but imposed a year’s cooling off period. For instance, a player employed by a company in April 2006 could only represent the club from April 2007. Students, who produced relevant documents proving their pursuit of education in Tamil Nadu, had to wait for a year too.

While we saw a leading player like Piyush Chawla turning out for Chemplast, not many teams were willing to pay a year’s salary to a cricketer without the chance of getting him on to the cricket field.

Now, the TNCA could revert to two professional cricketers — they need not be employed by a company — in a side.

Former Tamil Nadu captain S. Vasudevan told The Hindu, “I think this will enhance the quality of first division cricket, particularly in bowling. We have serious problems in bowling and the outstation cricketers, who are worthy bowlers, could mentor and guide the young bowlers in the league. They would also prevent batsmen from scoring easy runs. The competition will be there.”

Yet, won’t these cricketers deny opportunities to budding local players? Vasudevan replied, “You have to be good enough to play. There will be chances for the emerging cricketers too when some players are selected to represent State or country.”

Abdul Jabbar, a fighting batsman in his time, said, “The contests will surely be better. Our bowlers will be operating to good outstation batsmen. And you won’t have so many batsmen getting to 1000 runs so soon. It would lift the overall standards. But importing players alone will not be enough. The teams will have to prepare sporting tracks.”

There are dissenting voices too. An official of a lesser side, who did not want to be named, said, “The rich clubs can purchase top players. What about the smaller sides, particularly the promoted teams, who do not have the resources? It will not be a level-playing field.”

These are critical times in Tamil Nadu cricket, requiring vision and decisiveness.

More In: Cricket | Sport