The Ranji Trophy tournament will kick off next week. For a majority of players the tournament is important as it offers them a platform to exhibit their talent. But it's time the Board of Control for Cricket in India asked the stars to play the tournament.
There are some players who haven't played a game for a long time. Perhaps, they were busy playing international cricket. In some cases, the players were allowed to skip matches.
For too long, the players were allowed the luxury to pick and choose matches and some of the established players took advantage and avoided domestic tournaments.
The tour of England exposed the fitness levels of some key members of the team, though they were declared fit by the BCCI doctor. The entire world witnessed their appalling low-fitness levels. The only way selectors can avoid this farce is to engage these players in the Ranji Trophy.
After taking 300 Test wickets, when Glenn McGrath recovered from an injury, he was asked to play a few first class matches where some of the selectors watched him.
One can understand players such as Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, V.V.S. Laxman being unable to find time to play Ranji matches. Dravid played 100 Tests in 10 years but in that period he could play only 11 Ranji matches. But there are some established cricketers, who deliberately avoid Ranji matches but commit themselves for foreign assignments
In 13 first class seasons, Harbhajan Singh has played only 26 Ranji matches. The selectors must ensure that those who are not part of the Indian team against the West Indies next month must play for their respective States.
In 1961, Mumbai opener Sudhakar Adhikari, who was hoping to play for India, played a Ranji match on the day he was married. He tied the knot at 9 a.m. and rushed to the Brabourne Stadium just before captain Polly Umrigar went out for the toss. Adhikari opened the innings, batted beautifully and returned to the hall in the evening for the wedding reception.
Money seems to be the major factor for change in attitude.
The Australian tour is very important. Bouncy pitches and big grounds will torment the Indian players and if the players are unfit, it will be a repeat of the England tour.
The good news is that Sachin Tendulkar is training hard at the Mumbai Cricket Association's ground at Bandra. He may not be available for the West Indies series. A fully fit Tendulkar is what the Indian team needs for the Australian series. He can be trusted to decide the correct date of his return to the team.