Though timing a tad off, Vijay Hazare Trophy still counts
Holding the domestic 50-over event before the World Cup would have been great for the build-up, says Pravin Amre
A home World Cup, the national team putting on a dazzling show and the entire nation glued to the action – it should be a shot in the arm for the 50 overs format in India, isn’t it?
The timing of the national one-day championship, Vijay Hazare Trophy, too couldn’t have been better, starting within three days of the World Cup final. One would have expected the domestic cricketers to take to it with gusto.
While the tournament sure has got some boost this season, there is mixed reaction in terms of relevance. This is the T20 age, and thanks to IPL, it is where more career opportunities are.
Of course, those dreaming of playing international cricket in the 50-over format can show their stuff in Vijay Hazare. The national selectors will be looking for options as they look to rebuild the team for the 2027 World Cup.
Promising Tamil Nadu batter Sai Sudharsan belongs to the T20 generation as his performances for Gujarat Titans show, but says he enjoys playing the one-day format too. The 22-year-old left-hander has started brightly, scoring 125 against Goa in their opening game at Thane on Saturday. “Compared to T20, in 50 overs we have a lot of time, more than you think, to take the game deep. I like 50 overs a lot also, a mix of Test and T20 so I think it is a very interesting format to play,” says Sudharsan.
Even for those looking to get a break in IPL this Vijay Hazare edition is important. IPL scouts are present at all the venues. This is their only opportunity to scout for players before the IPL auction on December 19. IPL teams would have been happier though if BCCI had scheduled the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy – national T20 championship – in this period.
Former India batsman Pravin Amre, a coach at Delhi Capitals, feels having the 50 overs tournament earlier would have also acted as an ideal preparation for the World Cup.
“This tournament is very important. (But) I feel this season it could have been planned better. We started with Syed Mushtaq Ali, it could have been done the other way, Vijay Hazare first and SMAT now. Playing the 50-over format before World Cup would have been better for the national selectors as well as the players. No doubt, we played one of the best World Cups, but there's always room for improvement. When there is a World Cup, the schedule can be according to that. Having the SMAT now would have helped the players to make an impact before the auction,” says Amre on the sidelines of the Madhya Pradesh-Punjab game. “Vijay Hazare has to be there. We have two premium white ball tournaments; it helps the domestic players.”
Punjab won the Syed Mushtaq Ali title this season but they have not started the Vijay Hazare well, losing their first two league games in Mumbai. Former India selector Harvinder Singh, the coaching director of Punjab Cricket Association, vouches for the popularity of Vijay Hazare among the top players. “The players I am seeing, all of them want to play. After Vijay Hazare, there is Ranji Trophy and then IPL. This is the best tournament to get into form and rhythm.”
Harvinder, a pace bowler who played three Tests and 16 ODIs, says players like 50 overs because of a level-playing field. “If you look at the public, they like to watch T20; but if you see from the players’ point of view, 50 overs is a much better tournament because all the players get a proper chance to perform. In T20, the top-order batters get to bat the most but the No.5 or 6 don’t get proper opportunities to showcase their skills. In 50 overs, it is not that you can only get a hundred if you are an opener. Everyone will get the time to bat, same for the bowlers," Harvinder says.
Madhya Pradesh have started their Vijay Hazare campaign brightly, winning their first three games to head the tough Group E. Has it helped staging the tournament after World Cup? Coach Chandrakant Pandit says: “I have seen many players watching keenly. India was doing well and the guys were interested in the way India was playing. That can give certain players a little boost as they will look up to certain players, have them as role models.”
The celebrated coach said there is a lot to learn from the performance of India in the World Cup. “I have been telling them to observe certain things, how Rohit Sharma was taking the initiative, how Shubman Gill was playing the supportive role or Virat Kohli was building his innings,” said Pandit.
For him, Vijay Hazare has its value in the domestic structure. “It is a good tournament. We have three formats, and because of it many more players get opportunities. There will be specialists; if you are not good enough to play one format, they will have the option of playing the other format.”
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