Irani Cup, held at the end of the season, makes no sense to Dilip Vengsarkar, who became an India star through this annual fixture in 1975
Bombay’s Dilip Vengsarkar cuts Rest of India pacer Chetan Sharma in the 1984-85 Irani Cup match at the Kotla in Delhi. Rest, led by Kapil Dev, won this fixture by four wickets. Pic/MIDDAY ARCHIVES
The Irani Cup, the annual fixture between Ranji Trophy champions and Rest of India, launched Dilip Vengsarkar as the new star of Indian cricket in 1975. Batting for Bombay, a few days after his duck-on-debut in the Ranji Trophy game against Gujarat at Bulsar, Vengsarkar smashed 110 in 113 minutes with 11 fours and seven sixes to help Bombay go well past Rest of India’s first innings total of 210 (Padmakar Shivalkar’s 6-74 and Karsan Ghavri’s 3 for 61).
The Vidarbha team pose with the Irani Cup after beating Rest of India in Nagpur last year. Pic/PTI
The opposition bowling attack comprised his first India captain Bishan Singh Bedi and the redoubtable Erapalli Prasanna. It is in this match that he acquired the nickname Colonel, for according to some pundits, his strokeplay was similar to Colonel CK Nayudu, India’s first Test skipper.
Indeed, this match is close to Vengsarkar’s heart and it was held at the start of the 1975-76 season. The current Irani Cup will held from tomorrow at Nagpur where Ranji champions Vidarbha will take on the Ajinkya Rahane-led Rest of India. Vengsarkar has a problem with the scheduling. “What’s the point in playing the Irani Cup when the Ranji Trophy is just over,” he asked.
“Irani Cup and Duleep Trophy should be the curtain raiser for the season as they are the most important tournaments where players would like to display their form and fitness to stake a claim in the Indian squad for the season ahead. How does it help to schedule the Irani game just after the Ranji Trophy? It makes no sense to me and it defeats the very purpose. BCCI’s approach to get done with tournaments is questionable,” exclaimed Vengsarkar, who figured in nine Irani Cup games across 1975-76 to 1986-87 during which he scored 779 runs (four centuries, average 59.92). He is the third on the list of top run-getters in this competition after Wasim Jaffer 1294 in 12 games) and Gundappa Viswanath (1001 runs in nine games).
The fact that the Duleep Trophy is no more a zonal event has not pleased Vengsarkar too. “The BCCI has made a mockery of the Duleep Trophy by discontinuing the zonal concept to having teams like India Blue, Red and Green (picked by selectors) thereby closing the doors on genuine performers in the Ranji Trophy. I believe, last year, the players had no clue who their captain would in the next game and obviously there was no sense of belonging to the team. The BCCI must address this issue urgently in order to retrieve the importance of these two major championships that have provided a platform for many potentially great players in the past,” stressed Vengsarkar.
Vidarbha won last season’s Irani Cup by beating Rest on the basis of first innings lead in Nagpur. The hosts amassed 800 for seven declared thanks to Wasim Jaffer’s 286. In reply, Rest managed 390.