Paucity of funds in BCCI state units: Pitch preparations for the Ranji Trophy games took a hit this season

The malaise is getting worse by the day. The adamant behavior of the BCCI’s state units, which is reflected in the refusal of the office-bearers to implement the Supreme Court mandated Justice (retd) RM Lodha Committee recommendations, is slowly affecting the very game which they are supposed to promote. Cricket has begun to suffer at all levels in the country due to the stalemate between the BCCI and the state units.

As a result of not implementing the reforms, the state units are deprived of their share of funds from the BCCI. The apex court has clearly stated that the states shouldn’t be given any money until they toe the CoA line. This has put the state units on the back foot as not all of them are financially sound. Some of them are not able to pay the salaries of their staff, ground staff and also the umpires/scorers etc. This has resulted in a curtailment of their local cricket league and tournaments etc.

It is now learnt that the problem has begun to affect First Class cricket too. Even a premier tournament like the Ranji Trophy is not spared. The pitch preparation for quite a few Ranji games was affected this season. The idea of having neutral curators for home games was to improve the competition but it too fell flat. How? Several back-to-back matches clashed with the Ranji games.

A gap of at least seven days before a Ranji Trophy game wasn’t observed because the venue also had to host the BCCI’s Under-23 matches. This meant that the neutral curators reached their destination only to find that some other BCCI match was being held at the venue. So these curators had to wait till the game was over and thus got only two days to prepare the pitch for the Ranji Trophy game.

Calls to BCCI and its state units revealed something alarming. Due to lack of funds, the state bodies couldn’t buy extra pitch covers, prescribed rollers etc. which are a must to conduct the board matches. Therefore, the states were forced to use the only venue which had all the amenities and this meant that back-to-back games were held on it, thereby giving the curators very less time to prepare quality pitches.

The tragedy is that the BCCI is not in a position to help the states. Because it is clearly written on the wall “if you want money from the BCCI, implement the Lodha reforms”.

Is this the way a premier domestic tournament is treated by the state bodies? The board is also guilty of short-changing the domestic tournaments in the country by treating them like second-class citizens.

This sad state of affairs isn’t the case in other Test playing nations like England and Australia. If players don’t make it to playing 12, they are asked to play in the County Championship as the officials feel that match practice is better than sitting in the dressing room. Same is the case in Australia. It is only in India that stars keep missing the domestic games. When was the last time when one saw a star Indian player playing a domestic game? Of course, the likes of Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane are of a different breed.

With India playing so many international games all over the world, the board is missing on doing something substantial for a tournament like Ranji Trophy. It is a pipeline for not only spotting talent but also grooming them. The IPL doesn’t produces talent. The T20 league only embraces the end product. Real cricket happens in Ranji Trophy only.

There was a time when thousands of supporters used to throng the stadium to a Ranji Trophy game. Nowadays, the galleries are empty as the state units too don’t promote the matches. They are comfortable with the empty stands as it means less administrative headaches for them.

The fact that the board is not interested can be gauged by the fact that no BCCI official attended the prize distribution ceremony of the Ranji Trophy final in Nagpur. For the officials, it wasn’t the right platform to be seen on. However, the officials could be seen fighting for a spot on the podium during the fifth ODI between India and Australia at the Ferozeshah Kotla in Delhi. The BCCI and state officials were seen competing with each other on who will hand over the trophy to the winning captain.

It is time the BCCI and state units do something to make this tournament attractive to the spectators.

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Published by The Insider

Freelance journalist / cricket blogger

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