Scrap Ranji Trophy & First-Class Cricket, Because What’s the Point Anymore?

As selectors overlook Ranji Trophy statistics once again, question begets – what's the point of playing it anymore?

5 min read
Hindi Female

The likes of Priyank Panchal, Abhimanyu Easwaran, Sarfaraz Khan and Arpit Vasavada are all currently hard at work, occupied in their last-minute preparations ahead of the 2023 Duleep Trophy campaign.

Perhaps, the rare followers of Indian domestic circuit – those who haven’t uncovered something more compelling to do on a Wednesday of monotony – will search for scores, with telecast being unlikely. Or perhaps, they won’t.

Perhaps, the best performers will be provided with a few square inches on the back pages of the dailies. Or perhaps, they won’t.

Perhaps, those comprising the All India Men’s Selection Committee will keep a keen eye on the proceedings. Or perhaps, they won’t.

Beyond the ‘maybes’, ‘could bes’ and ‘perhaps’’, it might be incontrovertible that the above-mentioned quartet, alongside a plethora of other not-so-fancy names, will commit all they could to their team’s cause, once the tournament commences on 28 June.

Although, perhaps, it will be irrefutably justified if they reconsider their stance, because the runs they score, the wickets they pick, and the accolades they earn, will ultimately amount to nothing of great significance.

Perhaps, Duleep Trophy, Ranji Trophy and other red-ball competitions in India could be scrapped, because what’s the point anymore?


Questions Need To Be Asked About Test Squad Selection

On 23 June, five days before the Duleep Trophy, India’s Test squad for the two-match series against West Indies was announced. Given the rather ungallant defeat in the ICC World Test Championship final against Australia earlier this month, changes in the red-ball set-up were inevitable. And changes, there were.

The exclusion of Cheteshwar Pujara, once regarded as India’s solitary proprietor of resilience and reliability in Test cricket, provides space for a separate debate, but with words such as ‘overhaul’ and ‘transition’ being thrown around a dime a dozen, it could be the right decision to ‘phase out’ the underperforming veterans.

Questions, albeit, could still be asked, and should be asked – on the veracity of India’s transition plan, for whilst some exclusions are justifiable, many deserving candidates have missed out yet again.

How Much of Ranji Trophy Is ‘Unfinished’?

Following India’s unceremonious ten-wicket defeat against England in the 2022 T20 World Cup semi-final, head coach Rahul Dravid was enquired about the reason Indian players, unlike the Englishmen and cricketers from other nations, are not allowed to participate in the numerous franchise T20 leagues spread across the globe.

Here's what Dravid had to say in response:

If we allow all the Indians to play in such leagues, we would not have domestic cricket. Our Ranji Trophy will be finished, which would mean that Test cricket will be finished.
Rahul Dravid

With the announcement of India’s revamped Test squad, merely seven months after the comment, it will not be gratuitous to ask – how much of Ranji Trophy remains 'unfinished'?


The Consistent Performers Who Are Consistently Overlooked

Over the last three editions of the Ranji Trophy, spanning four years, Sarfaraz Khan has been among the more convincing, and most importantly, more consistent batters in the domestic circuit.

Scoring truckloads of runs – 2466 to be precise, in 18 matches – has helped him make and break a few records, as he went on to score centuries, double centuries and triple centuries in the process. Yet, it did not help him in earning a place in the national side.

Sarfaraz Isn’t the Only Cricketer Who Deserves Answers

Priyank Panchal shares a similar story. He was Gujarat’s leading run-scorer in the 2017/18 Ranji Trophy season, with 542 runs in seven matches. In the subsequent season, he bettered his record, scoring 898 runs with the help of four centuries and five half-centuries.

Panchal’s numbers were way too prodigious to turn a blind eye to, and along expected lines, he made it to the Indian contingent selected for the 2021 Test series against England – albeit as a standby.

Since then, we haven’t had much of him. The baptism as an international cricketer never quite happened, and due to no fault of his own, as Panchal scored 583 runs in the last Ranji Trophy season as well, including a knock of unbeaten 257.

At a time Panchal was scoring tons for fun in Gujarat’s jersey, Abhimanyu Easwaran was replicating the exact same, representing Bengal. Justifiably, he too was selected as a standby player for the home Test series against England, and then on two other occasions – for the 2021 WTC final against New Zealand, and the away series against England.

Having had three campaigns with the senior pros already, Easwaran further strengthened his case by scoring 798 runs in the last Ranji Trophy edition, at an average of 66.50. Yet, like Panchal and Sarfaraz, he could not make it to the Test squad for the Caribbean and USA tour either.

Saurashtra’s Arpit Vasavada could also consider himself hard done by. In his team’s maiden Ranji Trophy triumph in 2019/20, the batter played a crucial role by scoring 763 runs, including a century in the final. When Saurashtra clinched their second title last season, Vasavada scored 907 runs, justifiably winning the player of the season award.

The quartet offers only a glimpse of the gigantic pool of players, who have been consistently proving their mettle and making their marks on the domestic circuit, which ultimately are getting lost on the men who matter.

The (Rapidly) Fading Significance of First-Class Cricket

Talking to India Today, former cricketer Sunil Gavaskar stated Sarfaraz should consider quitting Ranji Trophy if the tournament holds no significance.

On his Twitter handle, Aakash Chopra raised concerns about the sanctity of first-class cricket being lost.

“What is the incentive for a young player to take pride in playing for his state anymore? Clearly the franchise route is a faster way to scale the grade,” wrote Abhinav Mukund.

Indeed, in the particular case of Sarfaraz, underwhelming IPL numbers might be used as a deterrent card, but there is very little sense in using statistics of a T20 competition as the judging parameter of a Test squad selection.

Unfortunately, Panchal, Easwaran, Vasavada and many others don’t feature in IPL, so they might consider calling curtains on their hopes altogether.

That, the enormously exciting Indian prospects from IPL have been fast-tracked in the national set-up, deserves praise. But there needs to be an explanation for why the Ranji Trophy chart-toppers are being consistently overlooked, despite doing everything they possibly could to make it to the Indian team.

For, if the rationale isn’t produced now, they might as well scrap Ranji Trophy, and every other domestic red-ball competition.

What’s the point anymore?

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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