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Syed Mushtaq Ali Trohpy: BCCI's unwanted child



Syed Mushtaq Ali was a Test cricketer who played 11 Tests for India between 1934 and 1952. But even in this short career Mushtaq Ali had gained a reputation of being a dashing and a flamboyant strokeplayer.  Now we move on to 2006, when all the other boards considered the T20s as the next best thing since sliced bread. But the BCCI was still skeptical, not out of any concern for the game but rather their own pockets. The worry was that if the 20 over game replaced the 50 over format, suddenly the BCCI would find their main money-spinner (50 over cricket) delivering 60% less revenue. So much so in fact that the BCCI was  against cricket in the Commonwealth games because the format would be T20.
The BCCI did maintain its distance from the 20 over format even though it was slowly warming up to it. India became the last Test playing nation to play a T20I in Dec 2006. And then finally a domestic T20 tournament was set up in April 2007 at the fag end of the domestic season, a full 4 years after the format was invented in England. Although this tournament was also established because of the T20 World Cup later in the year. Around that same time though, India had been knocked out of the 50 over World Cup in the 1st round (which, between you and me, never happened).  
As with every horrible Indian performance, this time too, public opinion had moved strongly against the Indian cricket team. This time though Sharad Chandra, head honcho of the Essel group, announced the formation of a rebel cricket league (ICL) and challenged the BCCI's hegemony over Indian cricket. The BCCI belatedly woke up to this and announced their own officially sanctioned T20 league, while denying all the time that this was not due to the ICL. Around this time, the Indian cricket team won the T20 World Cup despite the fact that they were not in the running initially. This changed the face of world cricket.
This is where things get muddied. The IPL juggernaut transformed Indian domestic cricket. But at the same time, it was working outside the domestic structure. There were just 8 teams represented initially in the IPL whereas the Ranji and Vijay Hazare trophy includes 27 teams while the Duleep and Deodhar trophy includes 5 zones. 
So basically, you had 19 (now 17) teams that are not directly represented in the biggest money-making opportunity in cricket and 12 teams that have not had the opportunity to host a match either. So to probably prevent discontent in various state organizations, the BCCI started the weirdest domestic tournament in cricket today.
Now what is so weird about the Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy? Well, for one the tournament is held in 2 parts, the group stage and the knockout stage. The problem is that the 2 parts are 4 months apart. In between these stages, you have the Ranji, Duleep, Vijay Hazare and Deodhar Trophies. They follow each other in quick succession and domestic teams are not too well disposed to sending their full strength team in that tournament. So you have sights like 20 year old Harshad Khadiwale captaining Maharashtra. And unlike the IPL, there are no international players plying their trade in this tournament.  In 2010, you had an extremely farcical scheduling mish-mash. The second stage of the 2009/10 Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy started on the same day as the 2010 IPL. So for 5 days, you had 2 domestic Twenty-20 tournaments organised by the BCCI running simultaneously to decide the same thing-Which team would be India's premier T20 team.
With the IPL already being in place there is no real reason for the existence of this tournament. Financially, the Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy is a pipsqueak compared to the IPL and the BCCI would be better off just sharing the IPL spoils with those associations. As far as T20 experience goes, the IPL provides 3 times as many games while exposing players to a far better quality of cricket.
The final word though belongs to Akash Chopra who explains these points quite well in his latest Yahoo article. As per his view, the tournament throws the preparation for the Ranji trophy off track, while concentrating on the Ranji trophy affects your T20 performance. The hectic T20 schedule is also a problem. Also this tournament makes no real sense when the top teams do not play in the Champions League T20.
So the question is what is the Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy doing here?

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