The far-reaching recommendations of the Technical Committee of the Board of Control for Cricket in India has found favour with a cross-section of seasoned domestic campaigners.
Among the proposals is the scrapping of Elite and Plate Divisions of the Ranji Trophy and introducing a three-tier format which will allow all 27 teams the opportunity of playing at least eight matches a season.
Pravin Amre, the former India batsman and former Mumbai coach, believes the less fancied teams stand to gain from the proposed change.
"Teams like Kerala or Orissa will have the same number of opportunities as top teams like Mumbai or Karnataka, which wasn't the case in the previous format, so it is a level playing field on that front," he told Wisden India.
Under the new system, the 15 Elite teams will be placed in groups A and B, and will be joined by the top three Plate teams. The remaining nine Plate teams will form Group C.
Amre also said the competition would be more intense given promotion and relegation clauses. "The new pool system is exciting," he said. "Teams will have to fight to remain in their respective groups, which acts as an incentive for lesser teams to stand up, perform and be counted."
Another significant recommendation is to make the quarterfinals and semifinals also five-day affairs. Mohammad Kaif, a veteran of the domestic circuit and captain of Uttar Pradesh, is of the opinion that the new system will usher in positivity.
"It's good that the board has planned sweeping changes. I like the idea of having five-day knockouts," he said. "The new rules will keep teams on their toes. It gives them a chance to come back even if they fall behind in the first innings."
The Committee has suggested that pitches with grass and bounce be prepared so that domestic players are ready for the challenges of international cricket when they graduate to the next level. "You can incorporate several changes, but ultimately, if you play on pitches like the one we saw in the Ranji Trophy final last year between Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan, none of them will help," Amre said. "The onus will be on the curators to prepare sporting pitches."
Over the years, it has become common for teams not to enforce the follow-on owing to the nature of pitches. Kaif, who has played 15 seasons of domestic cricket, welcomed the ruling on pitches. "I've seen bowlers give up after just one session, because they know conditions are loaded in favour of the batsmen," said Kaif. "It just kills the interest thereafter, so there needs to be a balance between good pitches and a proper format."
With an increase in the number of matches, the selectors will also have their task cut out. Amre, who coached Mumbai to two Ranji Trophy titles in 2008-09 and 2009-10, hopes there will be a proper talent monitoring system in place.
"I hope the board formulates some sort of a talent scout system, apart from the central selection system. Three groups of nine teams would mean a lot of teams would be playing simultaneously," he said. "The scout system will complement the selectors, because it is physically not possible for all selectors to keep an eye on all matches simultaneously. That will help streamline talent in a more efficient manner, and not just go by the numbers and records."
In another significant recommendation, the Technical Committee has suggested that in a 50-over domestic game, one bowler be allowed to bowl 12 overs.
B Raghunath, a long-term match referee, was excited by the prospect. "What fascinates me most is the proposal that one bowler be allowed to bowl 12 overs," Raghunath said. "It's a brilliant concept. Not only will it mean the best bowler in the team, or of the day, can have a larger say in the proceedings, it will also test the mettle of a captain. He will have to think on his feet, work out when and how best to use his best bowler. It will make for a very good visual spectacle too."
The number of points for an outright win in the Ranji Trophy has been increased from five to six. "If they had increased it further to say eight points for a win, it would have encouraged more positive cricket with the onus on trying to force outright wins," added Raghunath.
The recommendations of the Technical Committee, headed by Sourav Ganguly, will come up for ratification at the BCCI's Working Committee meeting later in the year.