New Delhi: Less than a month from now, the Ranji Trophy — India’s premier first-class tournament — gets underway on November 2. Yet, top cricketers from across the country aren’t bringing their white flannels out of the closet. Instead, they are busy training in South Africa for the Champions League Twenty20, which begins next week.
In the past, it was the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy — the domestic T20 tournament — that preceded the Ranji Trophy, but the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) then decided it wasn’t the ideal preparation for four-day cricket, and the Duleep Trophy was brought forward. But for the premier players, the preparation will be the CLT20, which is played with the BCCI’s blessing.
From a burnt-out Mahendra Singh Dhoni to an injured Virender Sehwag, all these players have their sights set on bagging glory for their franchises against the top domestic sides from around the world.
Speaking to MAIL TODAY, former India and Delhi opener Aakash Chopra feels while the experienced campaigners can still adapt to the formats quickly, it’s the youngsters who will suffer most.
“In an ideal scenario, one would obviously want to have a long camp going into the Ranji season. I have often brought up the issue, but to no avail. While the seniors shouldn’t be too fazed by the transition in formats, the juniors will definitely take more time. But then that is how the game has evolved in the modern day. You need to perform at any cost or perish,” he said.
“What makes it more difficult for Delhi is that even their coach, Vijay Dahiya, will have to undergo a transition in planning as he will be returning after fulfilling his duty as assistant coach with the Kolkata Knight Riders.”
Interestingly, if Delhi Daredevils, Kolkata Knight Riders or Mumbai Indians make it to the CLT20 final, most of their players will have just four days to adapt as Delhi, Bengal and Mumbai start their Ranji Trophy campaign on November 2 itself.
Back home, what makes matters worse for Delhi is that nine of their top 15 players are busy in South Africa while ideally they should have been in India and attending a camp for the upcoming Ranji season – a norm followed by every state team for close to a month before the start of every season.
Although the fringe players did attend the camp held in the Capital last month, most of the top players were either busy on national duty or working on their fitness at the National Cricket Academy. Even Dahiya was absent as he was with the Knight Riders, preparing for the CLT20.
While Sehwag, Unmukt Chand, Punit Bisht and Yogesh Nagar will be plying their trade for the Daredevils in South Africa, Gautam Gambhir, Rajat Bhatia and Pradeep Sangwan will be donning the KKR jersey and Pawan Suyal will be in the squad for the Mumbai Indians.
One of the core members of the Delhi Ranji team, whose IPL franchise didn’t qualify for the CLT20, feels it is very important for the players to attend a camp and adapt to the longer version of the game.
“It is important that all the players get together and train because it isn’t easy to adapt from the shortest to the longest format. Also, to know every teammate’s strengths and weaknesses ahead of the season helps the team gel and stay positive going into the season,” the player told MAIL TODAY. Another member, who is presently in South Africa, feels things are going to be really tough if his team gets into the final stages of the CLT20.
“It will be definitely tough for us, also because there will be a change in conditions as well. The pitches here in South Africa will definitely be more conducive to the bowlers unlike those back home,” he told MAIL TODAY.
With the Indian team’s performances across formats nosediving, it is high time the premier first-class tournament in the country got more respect and stopped being treated as a poor cousin of the cash-rich T20 leagues.