Domestic record-setting batsman Amol Muzumdar on Tuesday endorsed the new Ranji Trophy format featuring all teams in three groups - A, B and C - and points system along with a host of cricketer-turned coaches.
"In my 20 years of playing first class cricket, I have seen the format undergoing three changes since 1993-94. In the older formats, the Ranji season used to extend longer but in the current format it has been condensed into 2-2 1/2 months. If you are out of form or unfit at the beginning then you have had it," he said.
"It's a good format as it gives six points for an outright win and a bonus point is also available (for victory by an innings or by 10 wickets)," said Muzumdar at a seminar organised by the Sports Journalists Association of Mumbai.
Muzumdar, who said the introduction of SG brand of balls in domestic cricket has made a big difference, raised a point about weather-shortened matches in the north east region of the country from his experience of playing for Assam for two seasons before returning to try his luck with Mumbai from this year.
"In Assam, matches invariably used to start at 1030 am (scheduled start is at 0930 am) and end at 3 pm (scheduled end 4.30 pm) because of poor light conditions," said Muzumdar, who has qualified to play for Mumbai this season after serving a one-year cool-off period.
Bengal coach W V Raman, his counterparts Vikram Rathore (Punjab), Sunil Joshi (Hyderabad), Sulakshan Kulkarni (Mumbai), and ex-coach Pravin Amre are also in favour of the new format. However, Raman said the points system could have been more innovative.
"The new format is good but the only regret is international players would not be playing because of the tight (Indian) schedule. The points system is also quite good as it will encourage outright wins," Kulkarni said at the seminar.
"The grouping does provide a good mix with teams of different calibre fighting it out for the advanced stage. This will make Ranji competitive, but it's a disappointment that nothing innovative has been done with the point system," said Raman through a message to SJAM.
"In order to try and at least nudge the teams to think of an outright win, the points system needs to be re-visited. My suggestion is that if a team gains the first innings lead and eventually loses a game outright, it should retain the three points gained for the first innings lead and the side winning the game should be awarded 5 points for the outright win along with the bonus as per existing norms.
"This will mean that a side gaining the lead and winning the game will get 8 or 9 points, as the case may be, while a side losing the lead and eventually winning the game will still get 5 or 6 (points)," Raman explained.
"This I believe is the best format of first class cricket so far. The players will get enough games to show their talent and will get enough opportunity to perform. The point system will encourage teams to go for out right wins and will encourage positive cricket," said Rathore in his message.
"The only thing missing is players who are playing international cricket hardly play any first class cricket. If BCCI can find a way where all the players are made available to play for their states that will take Indian cricket to another level," he added.
"This year's Ranji Trophy will see lots of good players and teams. The point system is very good this time and the icing on the cake would have been if they could have given an extra point who are going for an outright win," said Joshi in another message.
"Hope the Indian stars who need match practice would come and play. It will be great for Indian cricket," the former India left-arm spinner said.
Former India cricketers Amre and Nilesh Kulkarni were also happy with the format and the points system but another ex-player Yajurvindra Singh, who played mostly in the 1970s, was happy with the zonal system of his time.
"The important thing is that all the knockout matches will be over five days which will help a team to come back," said Amre.
"Loss by ten wickets or an innings should be punished by deducting one point from that team," said Kulkarni.
"The zonal system was better. Two teams used to qualify for the knockout from each zone. Here Group C is full of weak teams. Why should a weak side get a chance to win the Ranji Trophy," Yajurvindra asked.
"What they can do is make it an IPL-type league at the inter-zonal stage leading to the semi-finals and final," he said.
Cricketer-turned-umpire Suresh Shastri said the nature of pitches provided for the games is also a very important factor.
"Last year I officiated in five games. There was no result in one game even after four days and another game ended in one and a half days. Both are bad (pitch examples)," he said.