Ajinkya Rahane calls for five-day games all through Ranji Trophy
Ajinkya Rahane has called for games in the group stages of the Ranji Trophy to be played over five days. At the moment, only the quarter-finals onwards are held over five days, with group-stage games lasting four days each.
Rahane was speaking after Mumbai's group-stage exit from the 2022-23 Ranji Trophy. Needing just a first-innings lead to qualify, Mumbai tied their first-innings score with Maharashtra late on the third day. This left them needing to force an outright win on the fourth and final day. Having then bowled out Maharashtra midway through the final day, they needed 253 in 28 overs. Mumbai made a good fist of the target, but were 58 short of victory when they ran out of time.
"First-class cricket can become five-day cricket," Rahane said after Mumbai's draw against Maharashtra. "We play Test matches over five days and in five days the possibility of a result is almost guaranteed. You will get more results. Every game should be result-oriented.
"In four-day games, on flat decks, you don't really get results. We tried to get as many results as possible, but it becomes challenging. In five-day cricket, that will happen more frequently. I don't know how it can be fit into the calendar, but five-day cricket will make domestic cricketers get used to the rigours of first-class cricket."
Rahane said stretching games by three sessions would sharpen players' survival instincts, which could make the transition to Test cricket smoother.
"If you play out a session, you can save a match in four-day games, but if you are made to slog for three more sessions, it will give them a better opportunity to develop better Test cricketers," he said. "It can automatically be carried forward into international cricket.
"How to survive sessions, how to be disciplined with the ball, all these factors can be taken care of if we play all Ranji Trophy games over five days. Anyway, the quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final are five-day games. If it's implemented in the league [stage], nothing like that."
Ajinkya Rahane calls for points penalty for slow over rates
Rahane also hoped the BCCI would consider bringing in a points penalty in place of the current fines for over-rate offences, which have seemingly become rampant among teams looking to either sit on first-innings leads or avoid defeat on the final day. Rahane will have an opportunity to bring up these points at the BCCI's annual captains' and coaches' conclave that is held after every season.
"Over rates are critical," he said. "If you don't fine teams with points for over rate, financial penalty doesn't really matter. But if you cut a point for slow over rate, the teams will be aware about it because it will be critical for their qualification."
Not currently part of India's Test plans, Rahane featured in all of Mumbai's group games. This was his first full Ranji Trophy season since 2010-11, the year he broke through for India in ODIs. He led Mumbai this season, and they finished fourth in their group with three wins, two losses and two draws. He topped the run charts for Mumbai, with 634 runs in 11 innings at an average of 57.63. This included two centuries (191 vs Assam, and 204 vs Hyderabad) and a half-century.
Having had a ringside view of the competition, Rahane expressed satisfaction at the quality of cricket on offer, but also called for players across teams to shelve flamboyance for the hard grind when needed.
"In four-day cricket, majority of teams have started losing their patience too early," he observed. "Be it batting or bowling. Everyone wants to score runs quickly or pick up wickets. Instead, you should try and play out sessions or bowl a consistently good spell. A batter should enjoy defending, a bowler should enjoy bowling a maiden.
"I have seen all the teams getting desperate for wickets, rather than waiting patiently with a plan. And no one tries to bat out a session, instead they want to score quickly. I feel the basics of playing out sessions is the key in four-day or five-day cricket."
On Mumbai: 'This bunch definitely takes red-ball cricket seriously'
There's an old adage in Mumbai cricket that says, if the team doesn't win the Ranji Trophy, it's been an unsuccessful season. Reminded of this, Rahane expressed disappointment at not making it through to the knockouts but also pointed out that this was a young group of players hungry for first-class success.
Among Mumbai's batters, Yashasvi Jaiswal and Sarfaraz Khan have made giant strides in red-ball cricket. Then there's Prasad Pawar, who made a gritty century against Maharashtra to entertain prospects of a lead. Prithvi Shaw has been scoring runs on and off and was recently rewarded with a T20I call-up.
"I am extremely disappointed that we could not qualify for the knockouts," he said. "This bunch definitely takes red-ball cricket seriously. And my message to everyone is you should enjoy four-day cricket. Everyone wants instant success but patience, focus and determination is critical for this format.
"Not only on the field but the daily routine that we follow - getting up early, the warm-ups, going through the rigour even if you haven't performed, to be disciplined all through four days, backing your team-mates - one has to enjoy all these aspects. Only scoring runs or picking up wickets is not important. That's temporary but the real fun is when you follow the process day in and day out.
"Even if things don't go your way in two-three games. There are many boys who enjoy going through it in the red-ball format. And I have told all of them that you have to enjoy every moment because this is real cricket."