The premier first-class tournament of India has earlier held matches at the neutral venues, however only for the knock-out games © Getty Images (Representational Image)
The premier first-class tournament of India has earlier held matches at the neutral venues, however only for the knock-out games © Getty Images (Representational Image)

With the news being broken earlier by the BCCI that the upcoming 2016-17 season of Ranji Trophy would be played at neutral venues for the first time, it has gained immense backing. The premier first-class tournament of India has earlier held matches at the neutral venues, however only for the knock-out games. The new innovation and format is all set to put up new challenge and is certain to make the game more interesting with the matches up for grabs for any team, as well as allow people in other parts of the nation to get a chance to watch the game, as the captains of various teams have given thumbs up to the new concept. Mohammad Kaif expresses disappointment over BCCI’s decision

Mumbai captain, Aditya Tare said in an interview on bcci.tv,“First-class cricket is all about facing challenges and overcoming them, and that’s how we are going to approach it. It’s a new challenge and adds a new element to the tournament because neither of the teams would know how the pitch is going to play [or the conditions]. It will be a challenge starting from the selection process. You have to be prepared for any type of wicket. Also, every squad has to be well equipped in all departments. So that’s a great thing that has been added. It’s going to throw up a new challenge for every team. It will be exciting to see how it unfolds.”

Uttar Pradesh captain and India all-rounder, Suresh Raina said, “I think, it’s about giving a lot of popularity to Test cricket [since it’s a multi-day game]. It hasn’t happened before. Imagine UP vs Mumbai in Goa. However, we will see over the course of time how teams adapt to the challenges of wickets etc. and how the crowd responds.”

“I have been playing for UP, India, India ‘A’. I think it’s about managing the travel; how you are going to face and adapt to the conditions. We have to see the ground first and then we can prepare accordingly. We have to see our schedule first and then accordingly we have to have couple of sessions. We can then figure out what’s best for the team what we can do on particular ground. Once we know the schedule for the season then we can make up our mind and then we can plan better as the season approaches and practice accordingly,” he added.
“We used to play with three fast bowlers, one all-rounder and two spinners including me, but imagine if we are playing somewhere in Himachal against Goa then we have to see how we plan the composition and you know will know after practice only. A good thing for us due to the neutral venue is that in November-December when we played here [in North] there would be delays and days lost due to the weather, which might not happen now. We can get full days of play and results would be possible,” Raina quoted. “It will be challenging and it will be very exciting to see how everyone manages it. We will have to do it very professionally and be focussed,” Raina concluded.

Bengal captain, Manoj Tiwary too gave his insight by saying, “As a captain, as a team one won’t be familiar with the conditions like you are when you are playing at home venues, so you would want to prepare accordingly. The preparation has to be very precise on the skills required for the batsmen and bowlers. I would always want our team to focus on our strengths more than factors which are not in our control. So ideally we would look to further strengthen our strong areas and focus on how we want to play as a team. We have to prepare keeping those things in mind and expect the unexpected.”

“Until last season, we knew what conditions to expect because of the home and away pattern so the team would be picked accordingly. In that, we would pick only one extra batsman or pacer or spinner (depending on the venue), now we have to make sure that we carry an extra player in each department – specialist extra players – opener, middle-order batsman, fast bowler,” Manoj added.
S Badrinath too said about the concept, “All departments of the game will be tested now. Earlier, teams were playing to their strengths now it would be different and one will have to prepare for all eventualities. Even the batsmen will have to acclimatize to the different conditions and different situations. Earlier the home conditions were known, [now] there is the ‘X’ factor as you are not sure of what you are going to get. Teams will have to be well prepared for the ‘X’ factor in all departments. Players will have to get out of their comfort zone and you have to have a balanced team to be able to through to the next round of the tournament. A lot of thought will have to go into making a balanced side which should cover all bases in all departments.”

Devendra Bundela, the Madhya Pradesh skipper too had some valuable insight, as he said, “Teams will have to be more cautious and adapt to the conditions very quickly and go about it professionally. One will have to pick a balanced squad but you can’t strategize in advance [since some factors are still unknown].” “These days everyone is playing a lot of cricket and in different tournaments like the IPL etc so youngsters too have an idea about most venues. There would be only few venues where one might not have played. But it will be a challenge nevertheless,” he added.

Jaydev Shah, the Saurashtra skipper, who steered his team into the semi-final last season, also said, “We will have to keep ourselves fit because there will be a lot of travelling and that will be the most important thing. We will have to be focussed during preparation. We will have to keep a bigger squad since we will be travelling and prepare more.” He too added that the teams would indeed miss their home turf, but would eagerly look forwards to their new challenge.

Abhinav Mukund, the Tamil Nadu skipper presented his insights by saying, “First we have to figure out where we are playing. Right now we can’t decide anything because the fixtures aren’t out yet, but it’s going to be a really big challenge because we are going to be playing on different types of wickets and the home advantage is completely nullified.”

“Because it’s a fairly new format I think the team that adapts the fastest will definitely be ahead of the game. Considering that our team has played a lot of cricket away, it is quite experienced which is good for us in a way that we will be slightly more experienced than the other teams,” he added.

Mukund too agreed to the fact that playing outside their home state would be an advantage sue to the trobled weather during that period of time. “Monsoon affects us every year as 2-3 games go off which is sad. This time considering its neutral venues, we won’t be missing out on games this year,” he said.

Gokul Sharma, the Assam skipper told that with this new concept, every team has an advantage and disadvantage as well. However, he also added that since its a new concept, the team is preparing in such manner. “Since we are playing at neutral venues for the first time, it is important to prepare well, so we are going outside [Assam] for preparation. We are going to Bengaluru next month. We will be practicing there and playing some practice matches and also hold camps of around 10-20 days,” he quoted.