Ranji Trophy is one of the oldest domestic tournaments in the world along with the Sheffield Shield of Australia and County Cricket in England. The premier Indian red ball domestic season is set to kick off from the 5th January, 2024. The tournament has seen the best of Indian talent, both established and upcoming ply their trade. In many cases, players who have been left out of the national side, use this tournament as the chance to make it back to the Indian set up.
The declining fortunes of West Indies in test cricket –
Just a few weeks ago, West Indies had suffered the biggest blow. The two time ODI world champions failed to make it to the 2023 ODI World Cup set to be hosted in India. This was a fall from grace for the once dominant side of the 1970’s and 1980’s. The tears in the eyes of Carl Hooper couldn’t mask how the mighty had fallen. This was followed with a test series loss to India. What surprised many was the meek surrender of the West Indies team in the first test where they were bowled out for 150 inside the 1st day’s play in the 1st innings.
Deep Das Gupta makes a radical suggestion –
Former Indian wicket keeper and batter, Deep Das Gupta now-a-days is a known commentator. The 46 year old came up with a radical suggestion while speaking to ESPN CRICINFO. Gupta said “Bottom-line is there is potential, there is talent coming through in red-ball cricket. We’ve seen the younger lot come through, but to make the West Indies Test team a success or competitive, what they really need to do is play more and more of this format.
Should BCCI allow West Indian players to play Ranji Trophy?
Ranji Trophy has only seen the cream of the crop from India play the nearly 3 month long tournament. With the tournament now becoming 38 team affair, there is lot of cricket around. But Deep Das Gupta has an idea up his sleeve that could change the fortunes of the Caribbean nation.
Further speaking to ESPNCRICINFO the 46 year old said “Ideally you want them to play as many Test matches as possible, against competitive sides, the top 4-5 sides, but at times that’s not possible or practical. That leads to me a left-field idea, which is if West Indies Cricket can identify a few players and BCCI agrees to allow these players to play first-class cricket here in India”
Can this idea work for others too?
Using the idea given by Deep Das Gupta, can BCCI actually have players from other countries come to India and play Ranji Trophy? On paper, this looks a very good idea. The international players from other countries who do not play constant red ball cricket can get exposure. Players from countries like Ireland, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and West Indies can get exposure to some of the most varied conditions.
The biggest stumbling block though remains if this is actually practical and will the BCCI give it a go ahead. The BCCI has always known to be protective of its assets and the Ranji Trophy is the biggest asset after the IPL. India is known to be unbeatable at home and hasn’t lost a home series since 2012.
Could the potential move backfire?
Most of the international teams, India included are busy during the January to March season. The likes of Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are normally busy with international cricket in that period. West Indies are also known to host teams during that period.
In case the BCCI does allow the move of foreign players participation, it will likely allow only the fringe players. One may not see the likes of Joe Root, Steve Smith or Kane Williamson to play for Mumbai, Karnataka or Saurashtra. Any fears of overseas gaining familiarity with the Indian conditions is that thrown out of the window. So the fear of the mystic of Indian pitches being decoded could be done away with.
If it can be done in the IPL why not Ranji?
BCCI as said earlier can allow fringe players from foreign countries to be part of the Ranji Trophy season. The Indian cricket board in fact will pave the way for better relations with other nations if such a move is adopted. One may ask, if this move will actually work? The proof is in the pudding, named the Indian Premier League.
While the 4 foreign players rule may not be applicable in the Ranji Format, having maximum of one international player per side could work. This will the international players chance to not only learn and adapt to India but also a chance to earn.
Better payments for domestic player?
The inclusion of foreign players will also mean that the BCCI and the state bodies may have to up their game as far as the payments are concerned. In the current scenario, a player with above 40 appearances in Ranji Trophy makes 60,000 per day. The bracket could increase if a foreign player is signed and the local players could also benefit from this. In the current system, a youngster with less than 20 appearances makes 40,000 per day as a reserve player with same amount of games makes 20,000.
Raising the bar of Indian domestic cricket –
England has seen some of the best talents ply Pujara and Hanuma Vihari have played with fair bit of success in England. Ajinkya Rahane and Prithvi Shaw are soon to emabark on a journey of their own in England. Even the bowlers, Mohammad Siraj, Ravichandran Ashwin, Navdeep Saini and Arshdeep Singh have played County Cricket.
In case of foreign players being included in the Ranji system, the profile of the tournament will only rise. It will not be an overnight rise, but it will be gradual. India can become a center of cricketing excellence and Ranji Trophy could be the starting point.
Deep Das Gupta might have stated it to be a left-field idea, but the idea in itself is thought worthy. Could it work? Time will tell, but first the BCCI needs to give it a thought.