By Nishad Pai Vaidya
It is a contest between the dominance of Mumbai and the spirit of Saurashtra. While one side has been the most successful team in the Ranji Trophy, the others are enjoying their first big moment in the sun. However, in the absence of Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravindra Jadeja – players who form the backbone of the Saurashtra team – they stuttered and were bundled out for 148. The reluctance of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in releasing a few Team India players for the big game has taken some sheen off the match.
Jadeja and Pujara are a part of the Indian One-Day International (ODI) squad for the ongoing series against England and are undoubtedly their trump-cards. Saurashtra has done well in recent years and the two have been major contributors to those successes. Pujara is the run-machine the anchor — who scores tons of runs. Jadeja is the all-rounder, who not only picks up wickets, but has also scored big runs. Without them, Saurashtra is certainly a weaker side as they are the stand-out performers.
In the last few days, numerous cricketing minds have questioned the move of not releasing the players for this game. Mumbai’s Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane are also in the Indian team and as a result are missing in action from the Wankhede. The arguments are strong as the fifth ODI between India and England is a dead rubber with the series in the hosts’ bag. Not only that, but a few of them weren’t even certainties for Dharamsala.
Pujara is yet to make his ODI debut and has warmed the bench throughout the series. It would have made sense for him to be playing for Saurashtra in the final. On the other hand, there was also no harm in releasing Jadeja – even though he was a certainty in the eleven. With the series bagged, his job is all but done and Saurashtra are in greater need of his services at this stage. Had England won the fourth ODI at Mohali, things would have been very different.
This move would have helped make the Ranji Trophy final a more interesting contest as Saurashtra would have been bolstered tremendously. This is the first time Saurashtra have reached a Ranji Trophy final and the absence of their main players has dampened the occasion. In the pre-independence era, the Saurashtra region was represented by two teams – Nawanagar and Western India. Nawanagar won the title in 1936-37 and Western India won it in 1943-44. Thus, the ongoing game is a special occasion as it is their first final since they have become one force in domestic cricket.
Coming to the Mumbai players, Rohit came in at the expense of Rahane and made a big impression at Mohali. Releasing him wouldn’t have made sense as he is new to the opener’s role and would try to cement his spot in the Indian team. However, Rahane could have been released for Mumbai as he has been in and out of the side – without being given a long run. His trade would be better utilized by Mumbai.
With their reluctance, the BCCI has affirmed the belief of their critics that domestic cricket is neglected in India. What is supposed to be the most important clash of the season, the BCCI has managed to reduce its aura and charm. Instead, they are more interested in making money from the Indian Premier League (IPL) – which seems to be an unshakable commitment.
Let us consider a hypothetical example of the Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. The burden on him is unparalleled and that is because he is also the captain of the Chennai Super Kings. If Dhoni’s frequent India assignments tire him out and a Champions League T20 (CLT20) is coming up, would the BCCI allow him a rest? The answer is anybody’s guess. Instead, the Indian players are allowed to skip tours in the aftermath of the IPL for the desired cooling off period.
The domestic game is the very foundation upon which Indian cricket stands. Yet, it isn’t given the attention an IPL or a CLT20 gets from the BCCI. This money-minded approach is undoubtedly hurting Indian cricket and although this question doesn’t pop up in the case at hand, it certainly illustrates the board’s disregard for the Ranji Trophy.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)