In the days of mega-bucks and television, non-stop itineraries and twenty20 boom, does the Buchi Babu tournament retain its relevance?
In its glory days, the more-than-70-year-old competition, held in Indian cricket’s off-season, attracted star-studded teams from all over the country.
In fact, the competition, on occasions, even acted as selection trials for contenders since there were times when there was little or no cricket between the Buchi Babu tournament and an upcoming away or home series for India.
The problem is, there is hardly any off-season for international cricketers these days. But then, the Buchi Babu tournament that concluded in the city recently with Uttar Pradesh emerging triumphant, was a successful edition. The competition received a shot in the arm when Kalpathi Investments decided to sponsor the event; finding sponsors for domestic events can be hard.
The Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA), which conducts the competition, is pleased that it provides the youngsters a stage to showcase talent; the TNCA fields three sides in the competition.
Yet, does not the amount of cricket the State players engage in ahead of the season leave them fatigued by the time the Ranji Trophy arrives in late October or early November? Apart from Buchi Babu, the Tamil Nadu cricketers play between seven to nine three-day first division matches before the Ranji season every year.
“No,” says Tamil Nadu coach W.V. Raman. “I think the players become physically and mentally fit because they play so much cricket. If we don’t play, then many will say we are rusty going into the season.”
Raman adds, “Much also depends on how we maintain the players, rotate them. We have been doing that. And our young cricketers have been getting plenty of exposure.”
Indeed, B. Indrajith with over 550 runs in the tournament, presented a strong case for inclusion in the State side. The young Shahruukh Khan was another cricketer to catch attention.
For cricketers from North India, the tournament provides valuable match practice during the monsoon season.
Uttar Pradesh skipper Mohammed Kaif says, “There is very little cricket we can play at home during this period because of rain. So this is a very good opportunity for us to compete against some good teams. And the youngsters benefit.”
And there are some like the 42-year-old Ajay Jadeja who tested waters in the tournament this year with, possibly, comeback plans in his mind while leading Haryana.
The Buchi Babu tournament might have lost some of its lustre but still has its relevance.