‘Need to hear your players’ – Dravid on domestic calendar


Rahul Dravid is hoping for an “all-round review involving coaches and players” to address key issues relating to the Ranji Trophy specifically and domestic cricket in general.

Dravid was responding to a query on what the board can do to address concerns, like the one raised by Shardul Thakur about just three-day gaps between Ranji games leading to injuries, and hampering player recovery.

“I’ve heard the same as well. I saw some of the comments Shardul [Thakur], I think, made and, in fact, some of the [new] boys who’ve come into the team [have said it] as well,” Dravid said after India’s win over England in the Dharamsala Test. “Some comment about how tough the domestic schedule is, especially in a country like India with the amount of travel involved. So yeah, we need to hear the players. That’s a very important thing in a lot of these things.

“You need to hear your players because they are the ones going through the grind and putting their bodies on the line; and if there are enough voices saying that, then yeah, I think there’s some need to look at it, and see how we can manage our schedules. It’s a long season already in India. It’s tough.”

The senior men’s domestic calendar began in June 2023, with the Duleep Trophy, the zonal first-class competition. The schedule has been relentless since the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, the domestic T20 competition, started in October.

The Ranji Trophy that began in January has had players criss-crossing the country for matches with only three-day breaks. Ranji finalists Mumbai and Vidarbha, who play the final starting on Sunday, would have played as many as ten first-class games in just over ten weeks.

Dravid’s comments came at a time when the BCCI has done away with the annual Captains and Coaches Conclave it used to organise, where several important issues – like umpiring, scheduling, format, DRS, match fees and central contracts – have come up for discussion in the past. However, since the resumption of domestic cricket post the Covid-19 pandemic, this practice of involving players and coaches has been discontinued.

Among other issues has been the unavailability of top players for their domestic teams because of the schedule clash with the India A tour programme. This is something former Bengal captain Manoj Tiwary had touched upon in a chat with ESPNcricinfo, as he mentioned the need for better coordination between state teams and the National Cricket Academy over player availability for shadow tours.

This season, for example, Bengal were without opener Abhimanyu Easwaran for much of their Ranji campaign as he was away leading India A against England Lions.

“The Ranji Trophy is a long season,” Dravid said. “If you add a Duleep and a Deodhar on top of that – last year, if I’m not mistaken, the Duleep started in June, it was just a month after the IPL – and your problem in this situation is your best players, the guys who are pushing for selection for India, are the ones that end up playing the most cricket because they keep getting selected at the next level more and more.

“And their teams are the ones probably who are playing the semi-finals and the finals, or that kind of situation. They are the ones who end up playing a lot of cricket, and you also want them to be playing for India and India A tours. So it can get quite tough on a lot of those boys, and maybe we need to hear them out.

“Maybe we need to relook and see whether some of the tournaments that we are conducting are necessary in this day and age or they are not necessary. There needs to be an all-round review [involving] coaches and players, especially the guys who are part of the domestic circuit.”

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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