Ranji tales

Cricket’s loveliest stories have been in first-class ties. Let’s find ours

Written by The Indian Express | Published: January 19, 2009 1:08 am

Without anything close to adequate and effective infrastructure,Uttar Pradesh may have been writing a fairy-tale script in the Ranji Trophy over the last four seasons — they won in 2006 and have been runners-up twice since then. Much as UP’s Ranji success owes to the purely human factor — good coaching,good captaincy and a squad of very talented young cricketers with boundless enthusiasm and vaulting ambition — this is ultimately a story of cricket itself,and how cricket ties itself in with the world around.

C.L.R. James’s Beyond a Boundary — a cricket book that gave the world the aphorism “What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?” — became a legend because it showed just how cricket takes itself beyond its own boundaries. It wasn’t just a simple set of power equations between coloniser and colonised,between master and servant,between one class and another. James’s book also underscores for us something that we tend to forget — that the heart of cricket lies in first-class cricket. Not surprisingly,the best of classic cricket literature pertains to the domestic game. If cricket,like any other sport,is a spectacle with an open-ended narrative,it is time to once more enjoy first-class cricket in its own right.

Undoubtedly,domestic cricket is the breeding and testing ground for international players. But it is much more. For instance,UP’s recent success is nuanced by the shifting power balance within the sociology of the state’s cricket. Just as there is an interesting and intriguing psycho-sociological story behind the body language on the pitch,there is entertainment and education in the way Mohammed Kaif,who made his own international debut in 2000 having risen from similar circumstances,is now marshalling his juniors. If he says these boys need encouragement to do better,then encouragement they must get. And even if they don’t deliver,the game would still be spectacular.

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