Makarand Waingankar

Detrimental effects of commercialisation and rules-tweaking

Cricket has evolved from a sport to a business today. But as this industry is starting to grow exponentially due to the popularity in the country, the essence and tradition of the sport are slowly fading away. The attractive packages and constant change in rules or the format by the committee is affecting the game. One fine example is the Ranji Trophy.

The obvious manipulation in the Ranji Trophy before the knockout rounds has been in discussion for quite some time. Unlike the ECB, whose pitch inspectors dock points on the spot if the pitch is doctored, the cricket politics in the BCCI would only reprimand such action.

There has been only one instance where the BCCI banned Railways from hosting home matches because the pitch in Delhi was being doctored most of the time.

Toss or no toss…

The earlier committees suggested not having the toss as many teams took undue advantage. Although it’s difficult to be proven because not every home team that doctored the pitch could take advantage of the toss which is vital to the game.

The suggestion was to give the visiting teams a choice of whether they want to bat or bowl first. But, there was no consensus on this proposal.

The BCCI has instead recommended neutral venues as a solution for the same. But one main aspect that the BCCI has ignored is the home support. Why would spectators in Chennai come to the ground to watch Baroda versus J & K?

Playing matches at neutral venues may curb the manipulation. But, the BCCI has failed to consider other crucial aspects such as travel, practice and rest.

The reason being, when the teams play at home, they use the services of non-established Ranji bowlers to give rest to the main bowlers. With matches being played at the neutral venues, the bowlers who are in the 15 will be compelled to bowl when they should actually be resting.

One of the reasons why Mumbai won the Ranji Trophy comfortably was because the trio — Dhawal Kulkarni, Shardul Thakur and Balvinder Singh Sandhu — took a break during the practice when the matches were held in Mumbai. Bowlers from the bowling foundations bowled in the nets.

This plays a crucial factor. One can’t expect the main pacers to keep bowling in the matches and also bowl to their batsmen in the nets during practice.

Most of the incremental revenue in the business has come from an irrational expansion of the schedule. There are hardly any Test stars playing the Ranji Trophy unless he is dropped and wants to get back in the Indian team by showcasing his performance.

The international calendar has been getting tighter for past decade leaving very little time for the stars to represent their respective States.

Rahul Dravid was always willing to play for Karnataka. But in actuality, he could only play 11 Ranji matches in a decade where he played 100 Tests. In fact, his schedule was such that, for five consecutive years he wasn’t available to play any of the Ranji matches! Same is the case with the other Test stars.

Re-look at number of tournaments

Therefore, there is a need for the technical committee to discuss threadbare to reduce the number of senior tournaments. Half of the total 900 matches that the BCCI conducts are senior matches.

Apart from the England tour which is during the offseason, all other series are clashing with the Indian season. With no Test star available to play Ranji Trophy, spectators are reluctant to watch the matches as there are better international matches being telecast at the same time.

Commercialisation has also lead to a huge dilution in the game and the usage of heavy bats. One must compliment the Anil Kumble-led ICC Cricket Committee’s request to the custodians of Cricket Laws to consider the dimensions of the bat.

Usage of heavy bats is making the game totally one-sided. The thick edges help and even mis-hits to go over the boundary. This unfair advantage is the reason for the huge demand for heavy bats.

This not only affects the technical aspect of the game but sports physiotherapists admit that there is a higher percentage of young players who complain of back pain.

The MCC seems to have presented a research paper to the ICC Cricket Committee on the dimensions of the bat and if the decisions are taken quickly we would get to watch delicate cricketing shots.

At the moment, all that we get to watch are cross-batted lofted shots to get the maximum runs. It’s nice to watch aggressive play but not at the cost of skilful bowlers going for runs thanks to heavy bats with thick edges. This is a mockery of a noble sport.

Although India's commercial pull in world cricket is the basis for the major changes that are currently seen, utmost care has to be taken that this noble game and its tradition are not lost in the process.

After all, Test cricket is not a light-hearted business either!


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Printable version | Jul 30, 2021 11:13:05 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/makarand-waingankar/Detrimental-effects-of-commercialisation-and-rules-tweaking/article14412652.ece

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