Superstars aren’t born out of nowhere. In fact they aren’t born at all. Talent needs to be groomed and groomed well. This is where domestic cricket comes in. It is no coincidence that 4 times world champions Australia has one of the most professional and efficient domestic cricket set-ups. Players coming into the Australian team from domestic cricket have, at most times provided feasible alternatives to those they have replaced thus maintaining a tradition of healthy competition within the team.
Forget the north south divide; domestic cricket in India is the poorer, less popular cousin of International cricket. The other handicaps follow, primarily
• Administrative deficiencies: Lack of professionalism and organizational snags are costing Indian cricket dearly. Coordination b/w Board, players, sponsors, media is at best sloppy.
• Low participation from international players in domestic tournaments, thus lesser interaction and low levels of exposure to international cricket.
• Caliber is not the prime selection criteria. Former coach John Wright has favored abolishing of zonal selections, which promote regional interests.
• Politics: the big daddies of the game have held the game at ransom for too long now. The absurdity of the Food and Agriculture Minister running the premier cricketing body is yet to strike home.
• Low visibility factor; Former Board chief I S Bindra admitted that the BCCI had in the past failed to market domestic cricket as well as its international cricket programme. Domestic players are also paid pittance compared to their international counterparts. The remuneration for players representing Team India is Rs 2.50 lakhs for a Test and Rs 1.85 lakhs an ODI on foreign tours. While a domestic player earns Rs. 80,000 for a four-day Ranji league game.
What is really eating into Indian cricket is a stagnancy that makes everything that doesn’t go on, on the field a shoddy backstage exercise and whatever little progress has been achieved over the years has been done by working against the system rather than with the system. On the positive side unlike most propositions in India, the dough isn’t even a problem here. BCCI today is one of the richest cricketing bodies in the world. But where there is money, private players can hardly be left behind. So we have an Indian Cricket League (ICL) launched by Zee group Chairman Subhas Chandra, taking shape that promises to pump money into domestic cricket like never before. The BCCI on its part has termed it ‘illegal’ warning former players like Kapil Dev and Sandip Patil who have joined it. The deeper you go the murkier it gets. So while crass commercialization of any sport is a no-no, a private governmental body partnership could be a viable solution.
If we care enough for the state of Indian cricket, if indeed it is a matter of national pride, if we have a vision for Indian cricket, the work on it must begin at the grassroots, at the domestic level.