Kolkata: Former India captain Rahul Dravid was very critical of the pitches being prepared in the ongoing Ranji Trophy, where "getting six to seven wickets by bowling darts" has become the order of the day and said that it will prove to be detrimental towards producing "good cricketers".
Dravid made no bones about the fact that such pitches like these are "waste of time, energy and money."
Five matches in Ranji Trophy ending inside two days has certainly not impressed the India A and U-19 coach, who has been entrusted with the responsibility of guiding the next batch of talented cricketers.
"We don't want green tops but also we don't want wickets where matches finishes in two days and people who are bowling darts are getting six-seven wickets. I think we need to be very careful that we don't go down that path," Dravid spoke his mind on what he thought about the nature of wickets in Ranji Trophy.
While match between Himachal Pradesh and Jharkhand saw 26 wickets falling in a day, Bengal skittled out Odisha for 37 on a strip which was termed dangerous by Odisha skipper Natraj Behera.
"Square turners, matches are finishing in two or three days. I really don't think its good for the health of Indian cricket. Because if you think about it it's a waste of time, energy and money," the usually reticent Dravid, let everyone know his thoughts regarding the issue.
While he said that international cricket is a different ball-game, the Ranji Trophy should be the place where one prepares good players for future.
"It's a little different at the international level since you are looking for wickets. But at least in the Ranji Trophy level we are looking to prepare players for the international stage. These wickets, what I have seen recently, is poor," Dravid did not mince words.
While he carefully avoided the Bengal vs Odisha clash but it did come up during his media conference.
"It is disappointing. I don't want to specifically mention the Bengal game just because I happen to be here. But all around in the Ranji Trophy this year, the teams are producing in my opinion poor wickets."
"And if we keep playing on bad wickets like these, we are not going to develop and produce good cricketers. So I think we need to find a balance, we need to nip it in the bud. I am at least glad that the knock-out stage is at neutral venues.
At least, we will see good wickets at the knockout stages."
Dravid feels that while a lot of people advocate for home venues in ranji Trophy but preparing these kind of pitches only force BCCI to choose neutral venues for knock-out matches.
"A lot of people criticise and say Ranji Trophy should be at home venues but if teams are going to resort to doing these kind of things then I think its better Ranji Trophy is in neutral venues, at least in the knockout stage. We need to start forcing teams to start preparing good wickets."
Dravid also spoke about the Indian team and said Kohli was doing a great job as a Test captain and it is not right to put labels such as "aggressive" or "non-aggressive".
"In the end, it is about winning. He has produced some very good results in Test cricket. I think he has got to learn. No one is born a perfect captain and even when you are an established captain you will make mistakes. So I think we are sometimes very quick to judge and start labelling, who is aggressive and non-aggressive because, it suits us.
"Suits the press really because then you can build a story around it. The fact is he has got to be judged by the results he produces. So far so good. I think he is doing a great job."
Asked who should be the perfect no 3, Dravid said it all depends on the performances but went on say that Cheteshwar Pujara was doing a great job.
"I like Pujara. He has played some critical match-winning innings. So I really like him at No 3. But that again depends on performances. You got to keep performing in any position.
There is no position that's written in stone that it's your spot.
"There was a generation of cricketers who batted. There was myself, Sachin, Laxman and Ganguly, who played for a long time because there were performances. You keep performing you can hold on to your spot. Pujara is doing well at No 3. Pujara is a class player. He doesn't need help. He is going to do well for himself."
"Kohli obviously is a really good at No 4. And Rahane bats well at No 5. They keep performing hopefully they will play for a long time."
Dravid further said he's in touch with the cricketers but refused to divulge any details.
"I don't give people advice through the press. I have constant conversation with some of these boys and the important thing to maintain a respect in these conversations because a lot of them are of a relationship of coach. Some of these conversations should be as they are."
On a different note, Dravid seemed excited about the pink ball being used for the first time in Test cricket.
"I am excited about it. I'm looking forward to how it goes. At one stage we keep talking how Test cricket is diminishing in value and we need to say look we are doing something that gets hopefully more people to the stadium," said Dravid, who has himself played a first-class match in Abu Dhabi in 2011.
"I have played it myself in Abu Dhabi for the England champion county versus the rest of England four years ago. I quite enjoyed it. I didn't have an issue seeing the ball. We need to try things. We need to experiment."
Dravid's advice is to the Indian colts is to be realistic as not all of them would get a chance to play for India.
"Irrespective of who is the coach, every two years there are 15-16 new U-19 players coming. Every two years there are not 15-16 slots in the Indian team. That's not the way it works.
"If Pujara, Kohli and Rahane keep scoring runs, tough luck for a lot of guys. That's the way it works for a whole generation when guys are set. That's what I tell these boys."
"Not all of them are going to make it. Only two or three guys will make it from here and the rest should aim to have really good successful first-class careers and push the players in the national team. We hope everyone can play but that's unrealistic. No matter how good a wicketkeeper you are in U-19, for the time MS Dhoni is in the team nobody else is going to play."
"Not every U-19 player will go on to play. And that should never really be the goal and aspiration of it. We should just help them improve as cricketers and people and hopefully they have good first class careers and some of them go on to play for India."