The inter-zonal Duleep Trophy — long ago a prestigious selection trial cricket tournament — has been tried out in many formats (knock out, league with an overseas team from England, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe), but clearly it's not anymore a big attraction for senior players.
There have been suggestions in the recent past to drop the Duleep Trophy from the cricket calendar, but the tournament can be made a meaningful platform exclusively for ‘A' teams (under-25 age group) with a rule that each zone must field at least two or three under-19 players.
On Tuesday, former India captains, retired first class cricketers and administrators gave shape to the way the Ranji Trophy is likely to be played from the 2012-12 season. After a fairly long run of 10 years in the Elite (Super) and Plate League format, the championship is all set to have an altered look.
The new structure as proposed by the special committee and the technical committee is meant to brighten up the matches, making it a level-playing field for the batsmen and bowlers with special attention to be paid to the surface across all venues in the country.
Sourav Ganguly (chairman, technical committee, BCCI) and Anil Kumble (special committee member appointed by the BCCI President) bring immense value to the respective committees having played their first first class match some 22 years ago and plenty of Tests and One-Day Internationals.
A closer look at the three-tier system with Group ‘A' consisting the best teams indicates that it is not far from the suggestion by Sunil Gavaskar 10 years ago. As chairman of the technical committee then, the champion batsman had proposed that 10 teams (two best teams from each zone) would play the Elite League and the remaining 17 in the Plate League. But some of the full members shot down the proposal. The 10-team Elite League was discussed at length by some well meaning members of the BCCI two years ago, but it did not make any headway.
The proposed new structure has been created in the wake of India's two overseas defeats in England and Australia. The Zal Irani Cup (Ranji Trophy winner and Rest of India), Ranji Trophy (first class) and inter-state (50 overs and Twenty20 must remain the heart of the domestic tournament for senior players. With sporting wickets, the Ranji Trophy donated by Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala, hopefully would provide keen contests.