Dav Whatmore, the World Cup-winning former Sri Lanka coach, who is now in charge of the Kerala cricket team, suggested that the coin toss should be done away with in the Ranji Trophy, allowing the visiting teams to decide on batting or bowling first.
Top five teams from Elite Group A and B qualifying for the knockouts drew criticism from some quarters and a change was proposed. There was also a school of thought that the knockout fixtures in the Ranji Trophy should revert to neutral venues. With a wider pool of 37 teams now participating in Indian domestic cricket, the relevance of having the Duleep Trophy and the Irani Cup, too, had been deliberated upon. Several issues had been thoroughly dealt with, as the BCCI held the Captain and Coaches Conclave in Mumbai on Friday.
Whatmore’s suggestion of scrapping the coin toss received lukewarm response, it is learnt. Eventually, he was told that the cricket board’s technical committee would take a call on this. BCCI treasurer Anirudh Chaudhry, who attended the meeting, spoke about why he was against the idea.
“Why do away with the toss? Toss plays a part as far as the game of cricket is concerned. You have neutral curators; so what’s the reasoning behind scrapping the toss?” Chaudhary told The Indian Express.
“For example, in the case of Lahli (a seamer-friendly venue like Eden Gardens, Pune or Dharamsala), whichever team is bowling first will have an advantage in the first session. So, you want a home ground to have a disadvantage. This doesn’t seem to be a practical suggestion, with regards to Indian cricket,” he added.
The BCCI treasurer, in fact, dittoed the ICC Cricket Committee, which decided last year to stick to the coin toss in Tests as an “integral part” of the long-form narrative. The Committee headed by Anil Kumble differed with the former greats like Michael Holding, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting on the issue. The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), however, scrapped the toss in the County Championship from 2016.
It is learnt that some participants made their displeasure known over top five teams from Elite Group A and B combined qualifying for the knockouts.
“The system is a little lopsided,” Bengal team mentor Arun Lal told The Indian Express. Lal, however, didn’t attend the meeting. During the discussion, BCCI chief executive Rahul Johri said the cricket board wanted everyone who participated in the Ranji Trophy to have a shot at the crown. Chaudhary responded to that saying the BCCI should rather have a Plate Championship, with the teams vying for the title in that division. “There are examples to be found in different leagues for that,” the treasurer said.
Last season, the knockout fixtures of the Ranji Trophy, too, had been held on home and away basis. During today’s meeting, there had been a proposal to revert to the neutral venues.
Asked about this, Chaudhry said: “With regards to knockouts, somebody had said that keep it at neutral venues. I had said at that point of time that we must have home and away. Why would somebody come and watch a game at a venue if the home side is not playing. So it’s important to have home and away in the knockouts also. When the neutral venue was tried two-three years ago, it wasn’t received well.”
The BCCI press release issued after the Conclave said: “With the domestic structure now involving 37 teams, a discussion was held on the relevance and significance of Duleep Trophy and the Irani Trophy and opinion on the same was sought.”
Now, the Duleep Trophy was made a pink-ball affair three years ago. On the face of it, the proposal carries an undertone that the BCCI is not keen on playing pink-ball Tests in the near future.
India are the only major Test nation not to play a day/night Test yet. The BCCI’s refusal to play a day/night Test in Adelaide last year had forced the Cricket Australia to make the series opener a day affair. Chaudhary put things in perspective.
“See, what India are going to do in the near future is not something that can be decided in the present circumstances. This is a policy decision, which cannot be taken by the administrators and the office-bearers. It has to be taken by the general body. The general body is not being encouraged to meet in any case. Till that thing happens, this question is just a point for discussion. That’s it,” he said.
Today’s conclave also mulled on the introduction of the DRS for the televised Ranji Trophy matches.
But with limited number of cameras available for domestic games, it remains to be seen if the Hawk-Eye’s LBW detection, and also the snickometer, could come into effect. For the first time, a separate conclave for women captains and coaches was conducted.