The batsmen are flaunting their vocation in a big way even as the bowlers suffer in penury; runs galore and wickets scarce.
It is the same old story of India’s domestic cricket even as some well meaning administrators have been engaged in efforts to restore the balance between the bat and ball.
Fifty one centuries have been pounded and this season’s Ranji Trophy competition is barely two rounds old. In all, 47 batsmen have attained the ‘coveted’ goal.
Five of them — Paras Dogra, Jiwanjot Singh, Sagar Jogiyani, Ganesh Satish and Dheeraj Jadhav — have hit a double century each.
Ravindra Jadeja and Kedar Jadhav have a triple century to boost their image. Well, not one of them is remotely close to India selection.
The bowlers have looked short of ideas. Shahbaz Nadeem, the left-arm spinner from Jharkhand, has claimed 17 wickets off Jammu and Kashmir and Assam.
Among the bowlers to have claimed five wickets or more in an innings is left-arm spinner Jamaluddin Syed Mohammad, a debutant at 29! His Assam colleague, off-spinner Arlen Konwar, heads the list with 14 wickets.
There is little for the bowlers though as teams look to redeem their reputations in the third round starting on Nov. 17.
Making a mockery
Is it placid pitches or mediocre bowling standards? It is a deadly combination of both that has made a mockery of domestic cricket.
True, there have been results in matches, notably at Mohali, where the players have not had complaints against the pitch.
The trend, however, has been woefully loaded in favour of the batsmen, causing concern among the experts. How do they distinguish the good from very good?
The Board has instructed the 12-member team of curators to make “sporting” pitches.
Sporting can assume different connotations depending on your role, batsman or bowler.
“Bowlers want grass on the pitch. That is sporting for them. But the batsmen grumble at the sight of green tinge. “If the captain happens to be a batsman, the grassy pitch is transformed into a balding beauty on the day of the match,” said a curator.
Seaming pitches, bouncy pitches, spinner-friendly pitches… For years, the administrators have struggled to get the combination right.
In cricket parlance, the curators end up producing either placid or minefields.
There have been very few who could produce the sporting tracks of yesteryears like Chepauk or Eden Gardens.
The best five in recent times, according to current assessment of most players, are the pitches at Indore, Dharamshala, Mohali, Mysore and Valsad.
Even as the Board explores ideas and avenues to make domestic cricket more interesting, the lack of spectator response must figure high in the list, of course, assuming the organisers want people to come and watch.
Absence of stars may be a factor but consistent indifference of the cricket fans when it comes to domestic cricket does not augur well for the game itself.
For more than two decades now, entry by tickets has remained an unheard phenomenon in domestic cricket.
But strikingly empty stadiums present a poor picture on the state of domestic cricket. Who could have imagined Tamil Nadu playing Karnataka before empty stands in the Chepauk Stadium?
At many venues, the gates have remained closed for Ranji Trophy matches. Some, Baroda for instance, have seen spectators being reportedly treated shabbily.
It is one thing to talk of taking domestic cricket to smaller centres but this cannot happen at the cost of the required infrastructure, which essentially means proper playing field and dressing rooms.
Even as the run-bazaar thrives in domestic cricket, bowlers look for deliverance.
A five-wicket haul means a lot to the bowler even if there is not a spectator in the galleries to appreciate his show.
Keywords: Ranji Trophy