WHAT AILS RANJI TROPHY AS A SPORTS PRODUCT
• Too many teams, some of whom remain suspect to be even called first class teams.
• The doing away of the zonal system has made regional rivalries extinct. An emotive, symbolic, geographic or historic context is extremely important for generating buzz for a sporting contest. This is akin to a brand positioning exercise undertaken for a physical product in any sphere of FMCG business!
• Lack of any kind of performance incentive for the state associations; whose main purpose seems to be implement operational expenditure from the annual booty received from BCCI.
• 27 teams is far too much quantity vis a vis quality situation, especially for the longer format of the game, which is an ultimate test of talent for a cricketer.
Point 1: Return back to zonal format
Unfortunately since the advent of the IPL ,Indian sports administrators have been heavily influenced by the EPL format which works for a geographically small country like England. India should adapt the American regional conference system followed by a national play offs, with the top qualifying team from each zone for the national play off. That is Ranji becomes a national play off tournament, with the top team from each of the five zones competing for top honors. India ‘s geographical size makes it prudent that we follow the American system rather than the British one! This will reduce operational and logistical costs and reinvigorate old rivalries; after all a Baroda V Gujarat or Saurashtra, offers more than a Baroda V Karnataka match. Same holds true for a Mumbai Vs Maharastra & Vidarbha Vs Madhya Pradesh contest.
Point 2 Define each zonal conference as a separate competition eventually leading to national PLAYOFFS ( ranji trophy )
1. Every zonal competition should be defined as a semifinal stage for the great national play offs between winners of every zonal competition.
2. Each competition can have a trophy named after a legendary former player from the Zone. For Eg Kapil Cup for North Zone , Gavaskar Cup for West Zone, et al
3. These tournaments will be classified as first class matches.
4. Every zonal competition should have a general manager (former international cricketer of repute) ,with a dedicated team of sub heads for marketing-branding, cricket operations, & revenue generation.
Point 3: Every General Manager should be accountable for the overall health of his zonal competition
This should be a high profile job held by a cricketer of high repute. He should be given the freedom to operate and innovate under a fixed guideline set by the board. Annual review is a must where he will be accountable for standard of performance, revenue generation and public interest of his league within his geographical area.
Point 4 Every Zonal tournament should invite separate broadcast bids with annual renewal dictated by a free market economy
This will unearth the true value of Indian cricket. Ideally encourage separate broadcasters for each competition, which will increase involvement of broadcaster and keep them on their toes in terms of quality broadcast. The revenue generation too will be many fold as compared to present numbers. It is almost akin to the splitting of reliance between the two brothers which unlocked hidden value in group companies for the shareholders.
Point 5: Introduce 5 additional private teams (one per zone) for Each Zonal competition, having an equal chance as any other team within its Zone to qualify for the national playoffs
Now this may sound radical, especially for those who presently control the sport! However private enterprise is the Phillip needed by state associations for improving their management of the sport at the state level. A franchisee fee must be charged, proceeds of which should go towards grassroots development. It is just fine to see a reliance team compete with Mumbai for a top slot in the west zone c or a Bharti team challenging Delhi in the north zone. This will also help talented players of ill managed or politically troubled teams like Rajasthan and J & K to join a private enterprise, where their talent can be best recognized. I strongly believe that the main objective of state associations should be grass root cricket development, first class competition is just a byproduct of their work at the grass roots and junior cricket.
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