For the first time in 87 years, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) will not be conducting the Ranji Trophy – the country’s premier domestic tournament.
While the Board has already communicated to the state associations that in the current scenario, it would go ahead with the Vijay Hazare Trophy – the one-dayers – many in the cricketing fraternity believe that absence of the Ranji Trophy from the calendar could have a huge impact on the game.
Former India batsman and domestic cricket stalwart, Wasim Jaffer, believes that it is important for the BCCI to design a compensation package for the cricketers, so that it does not hurt them financially.
“With 38 teams, I understand it can be a bit difficult. From outside, all I can say is that taking into consideration that so many players feature in the tournament and there is a risk factor, it would be tough. But as a player or a coach, I would’ve still wanted the Ranji Trophy to happen,” Jaffer told Sportstar.
He, however, is happy that at least two tournaments – Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and Vijay Hazare Trophy – are being conducted. “But if you speak from a financial point of view, a player gets paid more if he plays the Ranji Trophy. Somebody who doesn’t have a job and is dependent on cricket, then it is going to be hard for him in these difficult times,” Jaffer, who retired from the game last year and is now the head coach of Uttarakhand, said.
In the Annual General Meeting in Ahmedabad in December last year, the Board had indicated that it would design a compensation package for players in case the Ranji Trophy or the Vijay Hazare Trophy is not held.
“I hope that it happens. That’s the biggest thing. Even nowadays, a lot of cricketers don’t get jobs. They are young cricketers and their family is dependent on them. In Vijay Hazare Trophy, you get paid only Rs 35,000 or 40,000 for a game, that’s not a lot of money to survive for the whole season. The next season starts in October and not most of them play the IPL, so it’s hard for them. So, if the BCCI can compensate them, then nothing like it,” Jaffer, who holds the record for scoring maximum runs in the Ranji Trophy, said.
A cricketer is paid approximately Rs 1.5 lakh per game as the match fee in the Ranji Trophy.
Hurting the ecosystem
In his long and illustrious career, Jaffer guided Mumbai to multiple titles and was a key player of the Vidarbha team, which won back-to-back Ranji Trophy titles in 2017 and 2018-19. So, how much will the absence of Ranji Trophy impact the ecosystem of Indian cricket?
“Such a thing hasn’t happened in a long, long while. Not just the Ranji Trophy, even international sporting events – like the Euro, Wimbledon – had to be postponed. It’s a big thing for any team. I am coaching Uttarakhand and we were looking to qualify for the Elite group and that can only happen if we play Ranji Trophy. No matter how well we do in Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy or Vijay Hazare, we are never going to be promoted to the Elite group. So that setback is always going to be there, because you have to start from the scratch next year,” Jaffer said.
Saurashstra captain Jaydev Unadkat and Cheteswar Pujara hold the Ranji Trophy in March 2020. – Vijay Soneji
“If we had done well in Group D and if we could have made it to the playoffs, we could have gone into Group C. The Elite teams won’t get to play seven to eight games because there won’t be any Ranji Trophy champions and of course no Irani Cup games. Those things will be missed, but then, you have to consider the player safety and the tight schedule (the IPL, followed by India’s tour of England).”
There were speculations that the Ranji Trophy could be held in two parts – the group stage getting over before the IPL and the knockouts starting post the franchise league – but Jaffer doesn’t believe that would have been feasible. “We are entering February and the Ranji Trophy takes a good-two-and a-half months, so that’s a reality. You can’t have the league phase before the IPL and the knockouts after. It will be May and the temperatures will go up to 40 degrees and in some places, it even rains. It would have been very hard,” Jaffer said.
Coaches affected too
Even the coaching staff will be affected in such a scenario.
“Only a few good associations have hired coaches long back and few just waited and announced their coaches and support staff, just 10 or 15 days before the tournament. That’s a bad practice, because the players want to train, they want to improve. Even though there aren’t any matches, at least this way, the players could practice and get better for next season. But some associations have taken a very defensive approach, which I believe, is not the right thing,” Jaffer said.
“You get paid for whatever money you spend from the BCCI, so there’s nothing wrong in spending money on cricket and cricketers. This season, some associations selected their probables just 10 days before the Mushtaq Ali Trophy and hired coaches hired just 10 or 15 days before the tournament. What do you expect a coach to do in 10-15 days. He does not have a magic wand. That was very sad to see.”