Time to lay Duleep Trophy to rest

The zonal tournament has outlived its utility. It is time to shelve it and improve Ranji Trophy.

The benefits of playing with the Kookaburra ball are negated by the Duleep format. (Getty)How good is the Duleep Trophy? On paper, a tournament between five zonal teams comprising of the best players from each of them ought to be good, right? Then why are the voices calling for the scrapping of this coveted tournament getting louder by the day? Since most of these appeals are straight from the players, something must be hugely amiss. It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee.
 
What is it about the Duleep Trophy that displeases its participants? Has the standard of competition reduced? Is it crowding the domestic calendar? Or has it ceased to make sense? Let’s delve into the issues plaguing this premier domestic tournament.
 
Knocked Out

A few years ago, the Duleep Trophy was at its peak with its round-robin league. All zones played each other on a home and away basis, which gave players enough opportunities to perform and tested their mettle in different conditions. Since the tournament was at least four weeks long, the assortment of players would begin to function as a team, which is essential to producing competitive cricket.
 
In the current scenario, the Duleep Trophy is a knockout tournament — two teams play only one match each, two teams can play a maximum of two matches each and only one team can play three matches. So how much would you read into the performances in the Duleep Trophy when most players get only a couple of innings to showcase their wares?

Are a couple of innings a suitable reward for scoring heavily or taking a bagful of wickets in the Ranji Trophy? For instance, if Central Zone lose their first match, both the highest run-scorer and the highest wicket-taker of the Ranji Trophy will get only one chance as a reward for their hard work. Moreover, crucial national selections are based on Duleep Trophy performances. Is this fair?
 
Experiencing Kookaburra

At Rahul Dravid’s behest, thankfully, the Duleep Trophy is now played with the Kookaburra ball instead of the SG Test ball, which is still used in the Ranji Trophy. It was wonderful to let our domestic players get a taste of the Kookaburra, a ball that behaves radically different from the SG Test ball.

While the SG Test ball responds the best to swing bowlers who rely on ‘release’, Kookaburra is best for the ‘hit-the-deck’ bowlers. SG rarely swings when new, but moves in the air after getting a little old. On the contrary, Kookaburra moves the most when new and ceases to swing when old.

Bringing in the Kookaburra was a novel idea. But playing with it just once a year isn’t enough to modify the skills of a bowler who uses an SG ball the rest of the year. Even if he adapts well, he is most likely to forget his lessons soon. This is because his muscle memory isn’t sharp enough to register the changes and remember it for a year. And starting from scratch year after year isn’t a great idea after all.
 
In The ‘Zone’

A few years ago, the league stage in the Ranji Trophy was zonal. Hence a zonal team for the Duleep Trophy meant something. Most players in a team would have played with or against each other in the Ranji Trophy, and there was a sense of cohesiveness within zonal teams. But now, the Ranji Trophy is divided into the Elite and Plate groups based on a team’s performance. So selecting the best players within a zone makes little sense because they would know little about each other — a situation not ideal for team sport.

How can one treat performances in the Elite and Plate groups equally? Also, as it happens, the bigger teams tend to influence the zonal team selections more. No matter how Mumbai, Delhi, Punjab and UP fared in the Ranji trophy — this year, they didn’t qualify for the Ranji knock-outs — they always find the maximum representation in zonal teams. How else would you explain five players from UP making the Central Zone team while Rajasthan (who’ve won the Ranji Trophy two years in a row) have just four? Curiously, one of those four may not even find a place in the XI.
 
It’s only wise to shelve this tournament for good — it’s a dead rubber. The way forward is to have only one four days’ tournament — the Ranji Trophy, and develop it to add more meaning to it.

Recent Articles By Aakash Chopra

Pagination

(58 stories)

Matches

SPECIALS

  • Five memorable moments from the India-West Indies match that don’t fade away
    The West Indies are evoking their legendary teams of the 1980s

    As part of a generation of cricket fans too young to remember Viv Richards or Clive Lloyd, we relied on mythology to learn about those inimitable West Indies teams of the 1970s and ‘80s who ruthlessly crushed opponents to the tune of their magnetic rhythm. Perhaps no team has ever transcended the sport quite like those inimitable West Indies, comprised of a collection of effervescent players that even captured the hearts of opposition fans. Legendary pacemen Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh were in their primes, and a young Brian Lara beguiled with the bat but it was obvious the West Indies were on the slide. More »The West Indies are evoking their legendary teams of the 1980s

    Five memorable moments from the India-West Indies match that don’t fade away

    As part of a generation of cricket fans too young to remember Viv Richards or Clive Lloyd, we relied on mythology to learn about those inimitable West Indies teams of the 1970s and ‘80s who ruthlessly crushed opponents to the tune of their magnetic rhythm. Perhaps no team has ever transcended the sport quite like those …

  • Smith sad to see Watson miss out on fairytale finish
    Unfairly mocked and maligned, Shane Watson will be missed from international cricket

    Loved by the Indian public for his IPL performances, the 34-year-old does not evoke similar sentiments from his compatriots. More »Unfairly mocked and maligned, Shane Watson will be missed from international cricket

    Smith sad to see Watson miss out on fairytale finish

    Loved by the Indian public for his IPL performances, the 34-year-old does not evoke similar sentiments from his compatriots.

  • Cricket - South Africa v England - World Twenty20 cricket tournament
    Classy Root flourishes into master of all formats By Amlan Chakraborty

    By Amlan Chakraborty NEW DELHI (Reuters) - There was never an iota of doubt over Joe Root's class since his 2012 test debut against India but the 25-year-old Yorkshireman's latest heroics have left many wondering if he is England's best ever batsman across the three formats of the game. Root is among the rare breed of Twenty20 batsmen who need not sacrifice aesthetics to score freely, a virtue he displayed with a magnificent 83 in England's campaign-reviving victory against South Africa in Friday's World Twenty20 match in Mumbai. "He is the best England batsman across all forms of cricket... ever," former England captain Nasser Hussain told Sky Sports after the team chased down an imposing target of 230 to record a two-wicket win. More »Classy Root flourishes into master of all formats

    Cricket - South Africa v England - World Twenty20 cricket tournament

    By Amlan Chakraborty NEW DELHI (Reuters) - There was never an iota of doubt over Joe Root's class since his 2012 test debut against India but the 25-year-old Yorkshireman's latest heroics have left many wondering if he is England's best ever batsman across the three formats of the game. Root is among the rare breed of …

 

Regulars