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Ranji Trophy: About flat wickets, drab draws and content teams!

January 10, 2013 19:03 IST

What's the point in having an extra day for the Ranji Trophy quarter-finals, asks Bikash Mohapatra, when teams are content batting for endless periods and settling for victory by virtue of the first innings lead?

An additional day over the usual four-day format with a provision for a sixth, if there is a possibility of a result.

Despite of that, three of the four Ranji Trophy quarter-finals this season ended in drab draws, only Services managing a result. They beat Uttar Pradesh inside three days in Indore.

Mumbai, Punjab and Saurashtra were more than happy with the first innings lead and a safe passage to the last four instead of trying to force a result.

This is something that augurs well for the knock-out stages of what is the country's premier domestic competition, and, in many ways, justifies the lack of interest in the same in what is otherwise a cricket-crazy country.

- Pujara hits 352, Jackson 117 in Saurashtra's semis march

- Mumbai seal Ranji semi-final date with Services

- Taruwar scores triple ton as Punjab grind Jharkhand

What's the point in playing an extra day when the teams are content batting for endless periods and settling for victory by virtue of the first innings lead?

The only solution, besides doing a serious rethink on the kind of wickets prepared, seems to be in offering the teams qualifying for the knock-out stage some incentive that would make them play for a result.

"It's something that the BCCI can look at," admitted Ajit Agarkar, Mumbai's captain.

The 39-time champions were content to bat Baroda out of their last eight game at the Wankhede, thereby progressing on the basis of the first innings lead.

Agarkar put the blame on the wicket.

"Eventually, it's got to do with the wicket," reasoned Agarkar, adding, "We have played on pretty flat surfaces this year, besides maybe a couple of games.

"This (Wankhede) was a pretty flat pitch later on. Whatever little spin was there, most good players would adjust to that. It is just that we wanted to be fresh for the next game, more than anything else.

"So, first and foremost, if you get decent pitches to play on, there are more chances of getting a result in five days."

He affirmed his side has the bowling to secure a result should the wicket be conducive.

"We have enough quality in our side, bowling-wise, to get an outright result," explained Agarkar.

"If the pitch affords a little bit more there is always a chance," he added.

The former India pacer, however, admitted that playing games that ended in draws ensured ennui.

"For sure, you can't go into the game thinking about winning it on the basis of a first innings lead and sit back for the rest of the game," said Agarkar.

"You want to get a result. You want to play good cricket to win a match."

He was also of the view that the wicket at Indore was another extreme.

"In the Services - UP game it was the other way round," said Agarkar.

"Maybe, the pitch proved a bit too much and that's why the game got over inside three days," he continued, adding, "So you need to find the right balance."

At the moment, though, given the wicket and the draws (and first innings lead) that most teams are happy with, the whole idea of having an extra day to ensure a result seems redundant.

However, there are some who believed a fifth day is essential in a knock-out fixture.

"Personally, I feel there should be a fifth day," opined Ambati Rayudu, Baroda's vice-captain.

"That will test the character of both the teams and show the attitude of the cricketers involved," he added.

In the final analysis, therefore, it boils down again to the perennial problem that has been afflicting domestic (and international) cricket in India -- the lack of sporting wickets that ensure results.

As things stand, not much is going to change in the near future, unless, of course, the authorities decide to take some drastic measures.

And that is wishful thinking!

Bikash Mohapatra