Ganguly and co need to act fast

The Indian domestic structure needs some serious structuring.

"We can't only be winning at home and losing overseas. I don't know how many teams have lost eight Tests in a row overseas, like we did, in England and in Australia. How could the technical committee not take note of this dubious happening?," former India captain Sourav Ganguly said recently.

Ganguly, who heads the BCCI's technical committee, also felt it was time for domestic cricket in India to be restructured as it hadn't been done in recent years. His knowledge to assess the game and the situation instantly makes him the perfect catalyst for getting the best out of players. The question however must be raised: why has it taken Ganguly and Kumble on the technical committee for these overdue changes? And why don't Indians play county cricket anymore?

Coming back to the changes, it took Ganguly's stewardship for changes to be proposed to the domestic structure and nature of the wickets in the country. The committee proposed overhauling the Ranji Trophy and recommended doing away with the Elite and Plate divisions. It also suggested that a bowler should be permitted a maximum of twelve overs per match and two bouncers per over in domestic limited over games.

It is indeed heartening to see that the technical committee, which also consists of Anil Kumble, Chetan Chauhan and Venkatapathi Raju among others, has taken the first concrete steps to stimulate different playing conditions for domestic cricketers on Indian wickets. The proposed changes in the format of the Ranji Trophy, should also make the tournament more competitive and give much-needed opportunity to players from the weaker states to test themselves against the best in the country.

Despite the suggested changes, Ganguly and co will still have to find ways to get the fans, who seem to come out in droves only for the IPL, involved at the domestic level. There isn't great demand from fans for Ranji Trophy, Duleep Trophy or Vijay Hazare Trophy, and even the final of these tournaments are played in half-empty stadiums.

However, in the changes recommended by the technical committee, teams will get to play eight games in the league phase - more than the current numbers - so that players who play exclusively at state level can still earn a decent living and play competitive cricket.

Ganguly, in particular, wants the pitches committee to play an important role as he recognises playing on flat Indian wickets isn't the solution to finding answers to the Indian team's woes away from home.

The tracks on which domestic matches are currently played are batsmen-friendly and flat, with the odds heavily stacked against the bowlers. But, batsmen who pile misery on these hapless bowlers are desperately found wanting and woefully out of their depth in demanding conditions. One classic example is Suresh Raina. But I don't blame him for he is the product of the environment he grew up in. However, he has to take all the blame for not ironing out his flaws. Raina made his ODI debut in 2005 and still struggles where the ball tends to do a bit.


There has been plenty of talk recently of the need for MS Dhoni to be replaced as the Test captain, but fans and administrators seem to forget sometimes that the captain is only as good as his team. I have never been a fan of split captaincy and such an arrangement won't work is likely not to work in the Indian team where reports of rifts, ego clashes are very common.

The BCCI's decision to give the vice-captaincy to Virat Kohli for the Asia Cup was a bold one - looking at the future like Australia did with Michael Clarke. The Australian management has always been clear that they live in the present but play for the future. Both Dhoni and Gambhir are in their 30s and it was a wise move to ensure Kohli is nurtured properly for the most important job in the country, behind the Finance Minister's.

Identified as a potential captaincy candidate as soon as he debuted for India in 2008, Kohli has been on the receiving end ever since from fans who still feel he lacks the composure, confidence, self-assuredness topped with arrogance which is unfit for captaincy.

He sports the latest haircut, is plastered with tattoos and does ads with Genelia D'Souza - but he is only 23 and one of the mainstays of India's middle order. He will have to earn the captaincy and the Sourav Ganguly-led technical committee and BCCI will have to ensure he gets a team which is not suffering from a crisis of confidence following the departure of a number of its great players.

Rahul Dravid is gone and it is only a matter of time before Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman realize they should call it a day. The Indian cricket board will have to be harsh with some of its ageing heroes on whether they are in a position to see India back to top of world rankings.

India will not play in the longer format again until New Zealand visit in August. Now is an ideal opportunity for the board to reassess the direction the team is heading and whether it's time to look at new players.

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