|The jubilant Mumbai team led by Agarkar|
Mumbai routed a hapless Saurashtra just before Tea on the third day of the Ranji Trophy finals to win their 40th title [SCORECARD]. The match was very much an one sided affair with not much left to say as the pure might and experience of the Mumbai team crushed the young Saurashtra team and it's a shame to have the most prestigious tournament in Indian domestic cricket end in such a mismatched way.
Saurashtra have been one of the best teams in the Ranji Trophy this season and that has been the reason that they have made it to the finals, but the young team lacking experience, just couldn't put it together when it all mattered. They were also seriously handicapped since Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravindra Jadeja were both on International duty and hence had to miss the final. Pujara and Jadeja are without doubt the two best players in that Saurashtra team and the reason for the team being in the finals has been because of these two. It was disappointing to see them denied their two best players. Pujara was made to carry drinks at Dharamsala and the Indian team could have very well released him to play in the finals. It was the only logical thing to do, considering that this is the ultimate prize in Indian domestic cricket. Surely they could have found someone else to carry the drinks.
India could have even released Ravindra Jadeja, had they wanted. This might seem controversial as an international cap is any day bigger than a first class cap, but considering that India had already won the series, India could have done with some experimenting while the all-rounder turned up at Mumbai. It wouldn't be the first time for such an incident to have taken place.
Mumbai too were likewise denied the services of Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma. Rahane's case is much like Pujara where he sat out the match on the bench carrying drinks and surely could have been better utilized in Mumbai, while Rohit Sharma did feature in the final XI. Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) had earlier written to the BCCI to release the players from international duty if they weren't in the playing XI, but the BCCI chose to ignore request.
Mumbai also missed their strike bowler in Zaheer Khan due to an injury. However with the likes of Sachin Tendulkar - who started turning up for Mumbai since his ODI retirement - and experience in seasoned campaigners in Agit Agarkar and Wasim Jaffer looked hardly like a depleted side. After all it was a Mumbai team and the team is synonymous with the word dominance in Ranji Trophy having won the 40 editions of the 79 held. Saurashtra however aren't a team blessed with such depth and it clearly showed!
It's understandable not to release Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja as they were actually part of the playing XI, but it's simply beyond comprehension not to release Pujara and Rahane from their towel and water bottle carrying duties. This is the the finals of the first-class tournament - the highest level in the Indian domestic circuit and to have such a mismatch and key players missing is surely a crime. BCCI's lack of any action whether it be postponing the finals by a couple days, or releasing the key players (which really is a simple thing to do) sadly shows just how much it really is interested in the finals. BCCI without doubt, would have loved to see a closely contested final, but I doubt if it was keen on making that happen. The message BCCI is sending out is that first class cricket is sadly not one that is high on their list. With the inception of the IPL, BCCI has been concerned about that and the money that it brings, and as much good the IPL has done for domestic cricket in India by bringing in plenty of money, there now exists a deep divide between it and other domestic tournaments.
This divide is something Wisden India's Senior Editior, Shamya Dasgupta calls a class divide and according to him the IPL has created a set of haves and have nots based on the 'disproportionate sums of money' and fame received by the T20 specialists in IPL in comparison to first class cricketers.
Take Debabrata Das, for instance. He has finally made his Ranji Trophy debut for Bengal this season. He had played domestic Twenty20s in the past, but was never considered good enough for the four-day format. But chances are that he is better known and richer than, say, Anustup Majumdar or Rohan Banerjee, both regulars with Bengal. The reason: Das has become a regular for Kolkata Knight Riders.
And so, to return to the moneytalk, while Das now earns anything between Rs 10-20 lakh (1 lakh = 100,000 INR) for his place in the KKR ranks, what do Majumdar or Banerjee earn? For an entire season of cricket for Bengal (if they play all the matches) and, occasionally, for East Zone, they earn less than Rs 10 lakh.Now of course there is a clear difference but such a difference is to be expected considering that IPL is a tournament with foreign stars, and more than cricket it is a grand gala with Bollywood actors, cheerleaders and dancers that celebrates the rise of modern India and the power it holds. Not much can compete with an event that tried to even push for its own window in the international calender either publicity wise or money wise. But now it's clear that nothing can. Not even the finals of India's most prestigious domestic tournament and staging that with quality seems to be of much interest to the BCCI and can compete with the amount of interest the board gives to its T20 league. Perhaps this is more than just a sad sign of the future that BCCI has in mind for Indian cricket.
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