An open letter to BCCI
Dear BCCI Honchos, there is a 5 day format, an ODI format and a 20-20 format. However there is no 4 day format. So why have 4 day matches. Please take time out to read the following reasons why 4 day matches should be done away with.
The 1st week of the new year 2017 saw 2 enthralling Semi-finals of India’s premier 1st class competition, the Ranji Trophy. Mumbai defeated Tamil Nadu by 6 wickets while Gujarat prevailed over Jharkhand to set up an all West Zone Final for the prestigious Trophy.
Both the semi-finals were 5 day matches, as were the quarter-finals too. The current format of the Ranji Trophy is that the league matches are 4 day matches while the knockouts are 5 day matches. Now thankfully, the knockout stage is of 5 days, or the world would have missed a debut 5th day 100 by young Prithvi Shaw, who became the 2nd youngest debutant centurian for Mumbai after a certain Sachin Tendulkar.
Now, my basic premise is that why have 4 day matches at all. That only encourages teams to try for the 1st innings lead. This year for the 1st time we have had neutral venues; otherwise 4 day matches often meant for instance that the home team would try to have tailor made pitch for their spinners, so as to increase chances of winning if they needed wins desperately.
That apart, a 4 day match often does not allow a team which has slightly faltered in the 1st innings a chance to have a comeback, as with 1 day and 90 over less, the other team is tempted to shut out the match after the 1st innings lead is secure. This also means that a dangerous defensive propensity may set in and this often may be difficult to alter in knockout 5 day games and more important, in the test matches.
Ultimately, the Ranji Trophy is meant to prepare the players for Test matches. So why not make the players play 5day matches from the beginning. Imagine how much a player of the 2 finalist teams will gain. He will play as many as 10 matches of 5 days each in the cricket season, counting 7 in the leage level and 3 in the knockout level. Even players of teams who do not qualify for the knockout level will benefit as they will play as many as 7 5 day matches. Ultimately the BCCI will benefit as more test playing players will be available for selection, giving the 5 wise men a wider pool to select from. Lets take the Mumbai Tamil Nadu Match as a case study. If it had been a 4 day match, it would have ended as a tame draw with Mumbai winning by 1st innings lead. Rather, 5 days led Tamil Nadu to bat boldly and declare at 356/6 and giving Mumbai a 251 run target. Who knows, if Shaw had not scored a ton, and the pitch would have helped the bowlers, TN would have actually had a chance to win. In any case, the match being of 5 days duration increased the interest in it tremendously.
What could be the points against 5 day league matches? Maybe a longer cricket season, maybe fears of less crowds. Well, as it is there are fewer crowds in 4 day matches as well, so it will not make a major difference. A longer season will only help the players and make them tough and better Test prospects in the future.
BCCI. Go for it. It will mean only 7 more days of cricket for all the teams but could dramatically increase the talent pool for selection of test players. India is the Number 1 test nation as of now, and this could be a way of ensuring India holds on to the Numero Uno rank