In a Tamil Nadu side that has quite a few popular faces, it is not often that M Siddharth gets a chance to make his own impression. More often than not, he is the understudy for left-arm spinner R Sai Kishore. Monday was different as he bagged his maiden List A five-wicket haul.
Siddharth is a quintessential 2K kid, who doesn’t hesitate to share is special moments on social media. But soon after what was his biggest day on the field, his Instagram stories was dedicated to N Jagadeesan, who had walked away with a headline-grabbing 277 which was his fifth century on the trot.
In the history books, Tamil Nadu’s match against Arunachal Pradesh will be remembered for what Jagadeesan achieved. And there were a few world-record List-A feats: TN‘s total of 506/2 is the highest in List-A cricket; They registered the biggest-ever victory margin (435 runs); the opening stand of 416 runs between Jagadeesan and Sai Sudarshan is also the highest ever. And after being sent on a leather hunt, all that Arunachal could manage was 71 with 14 extras being the second-highest contributor.
It once again brought the focus back to the format of Vijay Hazare and Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournaments. Unlike the Ranji Trophy, the BCCI has clubbed the teams from Northeast, Bihar, Chandigarh, Pondicherry, Uttarakhand with the rest of the Elite teams. Season after season, there have been instances where there have been lopsided contests. And even though Tamil Nadu were at the beneficiary’s end – as it boosted their net run-rate and ensured their passage to the quarterfinals despite two matches being washed out, India wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik wondered on Twitter what lot of them have been doing privately.
He tweeted: “Does it make sense to have the north east teams play the elite teams in the league phase. It just topples the run rates of teams and imagine if a match against one of these teams gets rained off! “Can’t they have a separate group and then qualify?”
Also on another side note
Does it make sense to have the north east teams play the elite teams in the league phase .
It just topples the run rates of teams and imagine if a match against one of these teams gets rained off!
Can’t they have a separate group and then qualify ?
— DK (@DineshKarthik) November 21, 2022
It might sound harsh on these teams, but there is a strong case for the BCCI to consider what Karthik has suggested. In the ongoing Vijay Hazare Trophy, teams like Manipur, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, and Mizoram failed to win a single match. Meghalaya registered one win and that too came against Sikkim as they were in the same group. Even in the recently concluded Syed Mushtaq Ali T20s, Pondicherry, Nagaland, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizorma failed to get off the mark.
While the flipside to Karthik’s argument is these players will never get exposure unless they play regularly against the Elite teams, Shreevats Goswami who plays for Mizoram as a professional has this to say. “Criticism is valid. It is not going to improve cricket. Instead, it is mental torture. Imagine what the Arunachal Pradesh players must have gone through during that match. What is more ridiculous is that some Elite teams win the toss and decide to bat to boost their batting average,” Goswami said.
No sense at all . More over teams decide to bat first against plate teams to boost their batting average. It mentally kills the plate teams to give away close to 400/500 runs in 50 overs .
— Shreevats goswami (@shreevats1) November 21, 2022
Tamil Nadu’s match isn’t the only case in point. In Group A, Saurashtra’s Samarth Vyas scored 371 runs in seven matches, but his highest score — 200 came against Manipur. Saurashtra won the match by 282 runs, with left-arm spinner Dharmendrasinh adeja picking his career-best figures of 7/10.
In a Group B match, Delhi thumped Sikkim by 10 wickets and 244 balls to spare. After Sikkim were bowled out for 77 runs, Delhi openers Dhruv Shorey (43 not out) and Kunwar Bidhuri (33 not out) chased down the total in 9.2 overs.
“If you are grouping Mizoram, Sikkim and Arunachal against the likes of Mumbai, Maharashtra or Tamil Nadu, what is the point you are trying to prove? Just keep the format like Ranji Trophy, where the Plate Group teams play with each other,” added Goswami.
One of the Arunachal Pradesh players who played against Tamil Nadu admits the game was demoralizing. “It was embarrassing. They were toying with us, and it looked like they were playing video games. We were just fetching balls from the boundaries. At one point, they started taking singles; they were not even trying to hit boundaries,” the player told Indian Express on the condition of anonymity.
The mismatch on the field isn’t surprising. Back in Northeast, unlike players from other parts of the country, there isn’t a proper cricketing structure. The BCCI is aiding the state units with new indoor stadiums, which it believes will help in the long run. But for now, there is a huge gulf.
“We are not yet ready to play the Elite teams. In Arunachal Pradesh, we don’t have proper infrastructure. The weather also doesn’t help. For pre-season, we travel to Jorhat district (Assam), which is 130 km from Itanagar. In Ranji Trophy, we at least play against the Plate group team but in white-ball tournaments, we are getting thrashed in every match,” the Arunachal player added.
Former Mumbai player Iqbal Abdulla, who has played one season each for Sikkim and Mizoram, believes it will take years for the Northeast teams’ to compete against the Elite teams.
“Infrastructure is one of the reasons. You are giving them only three guest players and the others are all supposed to be locals. There is supply from the junior age-group cricket. Above all, they have already played in the Duleep Trophy. I know players with 50 first-class matches who have not featured in any Duleep Trophy match. You can’t give everything on the platter.
“Ideally, they should have been asked to focus on junior cricket, say for five years, and then some of the players out of that would have been ready to play the Ranji Trophy,” said Abdulla.
Numbers don’t lie
282 Saurashtra’s victory margin against Manipur.
Saurashtra vs Manipur (Saurashtra won by 282 runs). In two other games involving NE teams, the victory margin was 199 and 8 wickets & 184 balls remaining.
Jharkhand defeated Sikkim by 193 runs. Sikkim also lost to Rajasthan by 7 wkts & 194 balls remaining, to Vidarbha by 7 wkts & 196 balls remaining; lost to Assam by 180 runs, lost to Delhi by 10 wkts & 244 balls to spare and to Karnataka by 6 wkts & 152 balls.
Arunachal lost to TN by 435 runs. They also endured 9 wicket loss to Kerala (237 balls remaining), to Andhra by 261 runs, to Haryana by 306 runs.
Nagaland lost to Madhya Pradesh by 321 runs.
Mizoram lost to Bengal by 9 wickets and 262 balls to spare. They also lost to Railways by 254 runs and to Maharashtra by 183 runs