A century of centurions! This domestic season was a feast for batsmen who plundered runs on placid tracks.
Statistics may not always reflect the true course but the Ranji Trophy this season was an exception as 106 batsmen crossed the 100-mark. The aggregate was 156 centuries.
The decline in domestic cricket has been steady, if not rapid. Sparse spectator presence, in some cases nil, dull pitches and lack of intensity right through the competition have shown India's domestic cricket in poor light. “An eyesore,” confessed a cricket fan.
As far as Bishan Singh Bedi is concerned, domestic cricket has lost its appeal and value.
“In fact, it has lost both in a big way thanks to misappropriation of our priorities. No one in the BCCI (Board) seems concerned. Ranji Trophy is our valued tournament. Not the IPL (Indian Premier League).
“The IPL is unreal. Ranji Trophy is the real cricket. If you have your priorities wrong, then this is what you will get.
“Mark my word, this IPL will strike a fatal blow to Indian cricket and the day is not far.”
Without grudging Rajasthan's back-to-back Ranji victories, Bedi posed a valid question. “Does Rajasthan, the National champion, have one player worthy of a place in the Indian team? Not really, but then it is not Rajasthan's fault. I would question the format and the technical committee's role here.”
Bedi pointed out how former champions Delhi, Bombay, Karnataka would have five to six players in the National team on the strength of having won the Ranji Trophy.
Rajasthan had just two outright victories and runner-up Tamil Nadu a mere one in the entire tournament.
“I don't want to be harsh but it is fact that the technical committee is dead to requirements of present day cricket. It is killing the bowlers and creating over-rated batting monsters.”
The former great said, “I remember vividly we had incentive for winning matches.
“There is hardly any now. No one is concerned about our domestic cricket. I don't want to be harsh but we must face the reality. People don't want to watch this kind of cricket.
“Occupation of the crease is not the requirement of modern cricket. It is actually anachronism. A team bats for 245 overs and wins the final on first innings lead. Are we not an entertainment industry?
“Then how do you expect people to pay and watch such dull and meaningless cricket? And all this happened in the backyard of the BCCI boss.”
In Bedi's opinion, it was imperative that the Board paid attention to the most important area — the quality of pitches. “We have been saying this for years but it is something that needs to be done on a war footing. We have to be serious about our pitches. First-class cricket should be played at centres with proper pitches.
“If it means playing on uncovered pitches, so be it, but it should be made mandatory to prepare good pitches.”
Bedi made a plea to allow the bowlers to enjoy some help from the pitches.
“Taking five wickets is no less important than scoring a century. Give the bowlers respect and priority and identify your best players as those who perform in difficult conditions. If you don't value your bowlers I can see a future where batsmen would face robots as bowlers. Who would want to bowl when the pitches are prepared with batsmen's interests only?”
According to veteran statistician Rakesh Sanghi, the aggregate for Ranji Trophy (Elite) was 49,664 runs with 47,103 of the runs coming in the leagues stage. Of the 156 centuries (in Elite and Plate), 18 were double and one triple.
Shockingly, in keeping with the trend though, for the first time in six years, no bowler could take more than 40 wickets.