Indian cricket is growing stronger day by day, but the attention given to domestic cricket is still not up to the mark. A start has been made and the media coverage has increased a little, but the problem is that the general public does not know the players who represent the different domestic sides. The reason for this is that the matches are not being televised.
For India's domestic cricket structure to throw up stars, they first need to be noticed, they need to feel important. The print media can do that to some extent, but television does much more than that. TV coverage will help attract local sponsors, raise local sentiment and above all, create a topic to be discussed and debated.
Sairaj Bahutule (left), the current captain of Mumbai, the reigning Ranji Trophy champions, in action. Domestic cricket needs to be given its due.
Domestic cricket in India has taken a back seat in an era in which Television has emerged as a powerful medium. Millions of people are obsessed with the sport, but they but cannot see the domestic players, many of whom might well go on to represent the national team, in action. The only matches that are televised are the Challenger trophy where we can watch 36 players, the Ranji Trophy final and the Duleep trophy finals. This means that of the 27 state teams that participate in the Ranji trophy Elite and Plate groups and approximately 450 players who turn out in these tournaments, less than a hundred can be watched on television. If you ask someone for his opinion about 'X' player who has been getting a lot of runs at the domestic level, the standard answer is, "Yes, I have heard that he is scoring runs, but then, I haven't seen him play (bat or bowl)". I watched the West Zone games of the Ranji Trophy one-day tournament in Ahmedabad last week. It was a memorable experience to see the young Niraj Patel in action. He is in tremendous form and has scored over 1000 runs so far in the season. His batting for Gujarat against Baroda was a treat to watch. Niraj came in to bat in the third over of the match. He started very cautiously, pushing for ones and occasional twos. He played like a seasoned campaigner, not trying to hit too hard, kept a cool head and above all, kept the scoreboard moving with good running between the wickets. I was very impressed, and I for one will certainly not be surprised to see him make the top grade in the near future. The West Zone one-day tournament was keenly fought. Baroda topped the table with 15 points and Mumbai and Gujarat tied with 13 points apiece. But Mumbai gained the second spot by virtue of their win over Gujarat in the encounter between the two, and qualified for the Knockout inter-zonal stage. It was disappointing to see Gujarat failto qualify in spite of Niraj Patel's dream run.
It's time that the BCCI takes the initiative to take domestic cricket into every household. Just like the English premier league, Spanish football league and the French football league, our domestic cricket should be promoted in such a way that the television rights can be given to some channels, who can market and televise it in the proper manner. I am sure the day is not far off!