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Ranji Trophy 2018: No money, no time for new North East teams


The new teams will join Puducherry, Uttarakhand and Bihar in the Plate League, and participate in other tournaments across formats and age groups.

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“WE ARE a little confused. What is the age category to pick players for the Ranji Trophy? It’s not on the mail.” That was Arunachal Pradesh Cricket Association secretary Tado Kohli’s query when asked about the difficulties faced by five new teams from the northeast — Arunachal, Sikkim, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Mizoram — that will make their debut in domestic cricket within a month. When Kohli came to know that there was no age cap, he heaved a sigh of relief. “We have players who have gone past the under-19 stage and some who don’t fulfill the BCCI’s age verification criteria. We will go ahead with them,” he said.

The new teams will join Puducherry, Uttarakhand and Bihar in the Plate League, and participate in other tournaments across formats and age groups.

While excitement levels are high, Kohli isn’t the only cricket administrator in the northeast who’s clutching at straws and trying desperately to catch up with the norms and regulations. It’s been two days since the BCCI, which is administered by a Supreme Court-appointed panel, released their annual domestic calendar for the 2018-19 season — they hiked the number of teams from 27 to 37, and the number of games to 2,000 games overall.

With hardly any time left, the newly drafted associations sent an SoS, prompting the board to form a task force to oversee the game’s development in the northeast. The challenges are myriad.

Arunachal and Sikkim have requested the BCCI to let their teams practice and play in another state owing to lack of infrastructure at home. The grounds in both states are learnt to be owned by local authorities and used for multiple purposes, including for football and athletics in addition to government functions and political rallies.

L Z Tenzing, Sikkim Cricket Association secretary, lamented that his state did not have “proper pitches” for players who have never played on turf wickets. But pitches are only the tip of the iceberg. These associations don’t even have money to take junior players outside the state for match practice.

“We don’t have enough money to run a proper administrative set-up that can deal with these nine-ten tournaments that have suddenly come like a bomb for us. It’s a big challenge because the tournaments are starting from August and things are nowhere in place,” Tenzing said.

The administrator also criticised the BCCI for handing out fixtures like a “typical government department”. “The fixtures are out and it looks like a typical government department-type of job. I don’t think it’s conducive and a practical situation for us. There is no time left. When will we hold the selections?” Tenzing said.

These issues were brought to the task force’s notice during a meeting held a few weeks ago. While most concerns revolved around lack of funds and logistical issues, Tenzing said he didn’t even have salaried staff in his state association.

According to Nabha Bhattacharjee, BCCI convener for the northeastern teams, lack of proper infrastructure is a massive hindrance.

“Five years ago, the board had given the associations around Rs 50 lakh each. In today’s time, an individual player is likely to charge that amount to represent a state team. They might have a ground and a turf wicket but even if the board gives them money now, you can’t hold that much cricket there within such a short period of time,” he said.

Further issues

Team selection is another challange, considering that August and September are monsoon months in the region. Bhattacharjee said teams like Arunachal and Sikkim should be allowed to play in outstation centres.

“Some places may not have good hotels. Some places will present a logistical nightmare. It will be a challenge for us. We are not complaining and are happy that we are finally getting an opportunity. But still, we need around 20-25 people to conduct matches here… for that, we need funds,” he said. The decision to draft the northeastern teams was taken by the Committee of Administrators (CoA), which was appointed to implement the Lodha panel’s recommendations. Incidentally, the Lodha panel had also said that “the BCCI may, if it is expedient, combine teams for the North East and Union Territories”. BCCI general manager (cricket operations) Saba Karim and CEO Rahul Johri were not available for comment.

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