First division back to its best

When the First Division was hosted as a two-day affair in the 2019-20 and 2021-22 seasons (2020-21 season was not held due to the COVID-19 pandemic), teams approached the matches as “extended one-day games”. While bowlers were content with stemming the run flow, the batters were always on the lookout for boundaries.
First division back to its best

CHENNAI: Moments after guiding MRC ‘A’ to its maiden Rajah of Palayampatti Shield a few months ago, India off-spinner and Tamil Nadu veteran Ravichandran Ashwin advocated three-day First Division matches.

“I wish the TNCA (Tamil Nadu Cricket Association) expands the matches to three or four days next season,” Ashwin had said in June. His words did not fall on deaf ears as the state association decided to revert to three-day games, for the ongoing 2022-23 season. The TNCA had made the First Division – traditionally a three-day competition – a two-day affair in 2019 owing to a jam-packed calendar.

Now that the premier division is back to its original state, those involved in the Tamil Nadu set-up – both on and off the field – are pleased. “We have seen good results so far. There is a shift in the way the game is played. We must continue with this format (three-day matches). If possible, we can add another day,” Tamil Nadu men’s team head coach M Venkataramana told DT Next on Saturday.

When the First Division was hosted as a two-day affair in the 2019-20 and 2021-22 seasons (2020-21 season was not held due to the COVID-19 pandemic), teams approached the matches as “extended one-day games”. While bowlers were content with stemming the run flow, the batters were always on the lookout for boundaries.

Since there were over restrictions, all that a team needed to do was outscore its opponent, which is not how red-ball cricket is supposed to be played. It is not for nothing that the ‘T’ in Test cricket is in upper case – it tests you.

“In two-day matches, a lot of qualities of Test cricket were missing, both in batting and bowling. Here (in three-day cricket), the focus is on grinding out attacks and picking up wickets,” said Tamil Nadu opener and Jolly Rovers CC captain Kaushik Gandhi.

“As a bowler, you are not looking to contain; you are looking to pick up wickets. As a batter, you are not searching for boundaries every over. It is about spending time in the middle and building the innings. We can test ourselves and see if we have the concentration levels to stay in the middle for about six hours,” explained Kaushik.

Meanwhile, Venkataramana said that the return of three-day First Division games could help solve Tamil Nadu’s bowling problems in long-format cricket. “The bowlers’ mindset and thought process will change. They will go for wickets. When declaring, they will look to bowl the opposition out. The teams are trying to take wickets. When you do that, you become more creative,” Venkataramana added.

“We will be able to see many aspects on the field. The changes are encouraging and will help us in our preparation for the Ranji Trophy.” Tamil Nadu may not make giant strides in red-ball cricket in a year, but is setting the base for a better future.

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