Bengal Cricket: A tale of gloomy future and lack of actions

Explore the challenges faced by Bengal Cricket, from the lack of homegrown talent to issues within the selection process.

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Koushik Biswas
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Bengal Cricket: A tale of gloomy future and lack of actions

Bengal Cricket: A tale of gloomy future and lack of actions

It has been 35 years since the Bengal Cricket team won the Ranji Trophy title back in 1989-90 season. A young Sourav Ganguly played his first season. Since that time, Bengal only managed to win one Vijay Hazare Trophy after a Laxmi Ratan Shukla brilliance in 2011-12. Though the post-2000s era has produced some excellent cricketers from Bengal, the cricketing giant from Eastern India has not been able to bring the Ranji Trophy back to Eden Gardens.

Though it is not easy to win the Ranji Trophy, teams like Vidarbha, Saurashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and Mumbai were able to win the title more than once in the last 10-15 years. Bengal meantime, played four finals but without any results to show for them.

After another disappointing end to a season and no future homegrown stars coming up the ranks, there are some chirps around the corner that it might be the end of the tunnel for Bengal, and sadly, there might be no light after that.

Also Read: Last 10 winners of the Ranji Trophy

Although there could be several reasons why Bengal is lagging in cricket, at Sportz Point, we have focused mainly on the on-field factors. Despite having a great history of producing some of the biggest names in Indian cricket, we have highlighted certain issues within Bengal Cricket to create a better future for the sport in the state.

No homegrown talents

Except for Ishal Porel, no homegrown Bengal player have got the national team call-up in recent years.  Image | Sportz Point
Except for Ishal Porel, no homegrown Bengal player have got the national team call-up in recent years. Image | Sportz Point

Although it is not new that players from other states have come here and played for the Bengal team either to get a new start to their career or build it, Bengal used to have some great homegrown talents over the years. 

Yes, in every state, some players come from different states or cities to get going in their cricketing careers. Mumbai is a prime example of that. But, without their homegrown talent, it is impossible to win trophies in Indian cricket. 

In the last 5-7 years, Bengal have given players like Mukesh Kumar and Shahbaz Ahmed who went to don the Indian colours while players like Akashdeep and Abhimanyu Easwaran got their national team call-ups as well. Sadly none of them are actually from Bengal and have come from different states to make their mark in Indian Cricket. Only Ishan Porel, who is from Bengal, got the national team call-up during these years.

Now, it is not only in the senior team that Bengal have other state players, the scene is quite the same in the underage teams. The lack of homegrown players in the U-19, and U-23 teams have been a concern to the future of Bengal cricket in the last few years.

Also Read: "Patience and intent is the key:" Bengal's Mukesh Kumar has some advice for young cricketers

Corrupted Second-division cricket

In Kolkata the second division cricket used to be called the platform for youngsters to make their mark. But, with no relegation in the second division league, the tendency of corruption within the teams has risen. With reports and news of team owners taking bribes to select players, it has been hard for the poor and middle-class players from the outskirts of Bengal to make their name in the lowest division of Kolkata Club Cricket. 

There have been reports regarding the practice of taking bribes from outstation players and creating local Adhar cards for them with new birth certificates. This has made it difficult for local players who don't have connections or come from wealthy families to get proper opportunities to make a mark. As a result, many of them are forced to leave the game after a certain age.

Un-clear Selection process

Since 2020, Bengal have given first-class caps to 18 players. Only Sudip Gharami went on to make a name for himself among those 18 along with Abishek Porel.  Image | Sportz Point
Since 2020, Bengal have given first-class caps to 18 players. Only Sudip Gharami went on to make a name for himself among those 18 along with Abishek Porel. Image | Sportz Point

In recent times, many renowned local journalists have reported that some CAB officials have been found guilty of influencing the selections and signings of players in their clubs with a promise to give them a chance in the Bengal team. Questions were raised when Bengal named 18 players for a single Ranji Trophy game as well, which proves that "something is fishy" in the selection process.

Along with that, Bengal team management have given out first-class caps to 18 players since 2020 and except for Karan Lal, Sudip Gharami and Abishek Porel, none of those players went on to play more than 10 first-class games which indicates inconsistency in the selection process. If we take the white-ball debutants into account, the list would be longer.

Unsuccessful Under-age cricket

It was back in 2017 when Kanishk Seth and Saurabh Singh helped Bengal win the Coochbehar Trophy.  Image | Sportstar
It was back in 2017 when Kanishk Seth and Saurabh Singh helped Bengal win the Coochbehar Trophy. Image | Sportstar

A few years back, Bengal used to be a powerhouse in underage cricket. After winning the Coochbehar Trophy in the 2016-17 season, and success in the U23 National tournaments in the following years, they have not been able to find any success in underage cricket.

Since the underage teams used to be a bench strength of senior teams, the weak performances of those teams have been one of the reasons behind Bengal not finding any future stars. The selection process and lack of homegrown players in the underage teams have been questioned as well in the last few years. 

Age-fudginng & corruption in Under-15 and U-18 leagues

Despite having structured CAB U-15 and U-18 leagues, there have been many reports of age fudging and corruption within the leagues and teams. This is one of the reasons why Bengal has not been able to produce any promising underage cricketers, resulting in their failure to achieve glory in National tournaments.

Searching for the next big thing

With the scorecard given in their hands, anyone can select a good team or a squad. But to find something special, sometimes we need to go beyond the scorecard. There have been reports of selectors and talent scouts not attending games, which has resulted in players who perform well in challenging conditions being overlooked.

According to some regular followers of Kolkata Maidan cricket, this has resulted in talented players missing out on opportunities due to the absence of coaches, selectors, or team management members at their games.

A gentle reminder, yes, we have taken into consideration that the match observers watch the games right from the start, but, we are not sure if they can influence any selection process.

Lack of batting stars

Among those 18 players who made their debuts since 2020, most of them are batters. But, except for Sudip Gharami none of the top-order batters were able to make any mark for Bengal. As per a few experts of Maidan cricket in Bengal, the games in the super division happen in really tough conditions for batters.

Though the idea was to make it difficult for batters to score runs so that they get ready to face the likes of Jaydev Unadkat in the first-class arena, they made it so tough for them that the batters are not been able to carry the confidence of scoring runs from their club games. On the contrary, the pacers have done well to carry their club game confidence to the first-class level.

Smaller grounds

Most club cricket matches are played on smaller grounds which makes it difficult to accurately assess the players' skills. Spinners tend to be cautious about giving the ball more air, while pacers are reluctant to pitch it in more attacking areas, which can result in more runs being conceded on smaller grounds. Batters scoring runs on those smaller grounds tend to find it hard to score big runs when they play at a higher level.

Unorganised district and zonal leagues

A lot of the districts and zonal leagues which fall under the jurisdiction of the Cricket Association of Bengal are disorganised and lack proper structures. Although players from these districts get their initial experience of playing cricket in these local leagues, the standards and structures of these leagues are quite poor, which does not aid in identifying and nurturing the next generation of talented cricket players.

Vision 2025

Even after the success of Vision 2020, Bengal Cricket somehow have not been able to run the Vision 2025 project. The Vision camps can be a pathway for younger players to showcase their talents in front of coaches and selectors. With the Vision 2025 project in place at the moment, the stakeholders of Bengal Cricket need to rethink and start the project without any delay.

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