Would it be a throwback to the times when international stars enhanced the quality of domestic cricket with regular participation?
Bishan Singh Bedi teasing Sunil Gavaskar or G.R. Visvanath with his flight or Dilip Vengsarkar and Mohinder Amarnath negotiating the guiles of Kapil Dev.
Those were heady days when matches involving teams like Delhi, Bombay and Karnataka were second only to Test cricket in terms of competitive flavour.
In recent times, most international cricketers have made rare appearances on the domestic circuit. Blame the international schedule that keeps them more than busy.
But November 2 promises to be a day when cricket lovers at various centres would love to take a day off and plan a long weekend of cricket feast. On view could be stars like Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan, Gautam Gambhir and M.S. Dhoni, provided the India captain is prepared to travel to Jammu for a Ranji match.
With India’s first Test against England scheduled at Ahmedabad from November 15, the Ranji Trophy openers (Nov. 2 to 5 and Nov. 9 to 12) can well be utilised for keeping the players match-fit. Old timers would support the view.
Kapil, who turned out for Haryana when he did not have international engagements, said, “In my opinion no player should ever miss playing Ranji Trophy. It gives you a different perspective than a T20 match. It helps you prepare mentally and physically. It also helps you to get into your rhythm in circumstances that you know well. I used to make a realistic assessment about myself through these Ranji matches.”
Gavaskar once arrived home from an overseas tour and within hours walked out for the toss in a Ranji match at the Wankhede Stadium. It is another matter that playing a Ranji match (against Maharashtra at Nasik) cost him three Tests against the West Indies in the 1974-75 home series. Fast bowler Pandurang Salgaonkar broke his finger and Gavaskar missed three matches before returning for the final Test.
With former greats like Bedi, Kapil, Gavaskar suggesting “match-practice” for Tendulkar to enable him sort out a few technical shortcomings, the Ranji match on November 2 might well provide that platform.
Experts have not appreciated Tendulkar playing from Test to Test and nothing in between. He last played for Mumbai in the 2009 Ranji final against Uttar Pradesh at Hyderabad. This year, Mumbai meets Railways in the first match at home and Rajasthan at Jaipur in the second.
Among the modern cricketers, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, V.V.S. Laxman and Virender Sehwag would always be available for domestic matches. Despite his retirement from international cricket, Laxman will be turning out for Hyderabad this season too.
Once Dravid and Kumble endured an arduous train journey with the team instead of flying to the venue. The match-practice and camaraderie went a long way in preparing these stalwarts for the international matches that followed.
Sehwag, if he is available, informs the selectors in time. It also ensures others follow suit. It is understood that Sehwag, Gambhir, Kohli and Ishant Sharma will figure in the Delhi team when it plays Uttar Pradesh at Meerut from November 2 to 5 and possibly the next match at home against Odisha.
The Tamil Nadu-Karnataka match at Chennai (from Nov. 9) may also see top quality action involving international stars. The Irani Cup (from Sept. 21 to 25) will be followed by the NKP Salve Challenger Trophy (Sept. 29 to Oct. 2) and Duleep Trophy (Oct. 6 to 25).
The first Duleep fixture (North v West) at Chennai might also see some star appearances before the big guns fly off to South Africa for the Champions League (Oct. 13 to 28).
Keywords: Ranji Trophy