There have been mixed reactions from school coaches regarding the new format of the Mumbai Schools Sports Association (MSSA) Harris Shield boys U-16 inter-school cricket tournament, which begins at various venues today.
According to the new format, initially there will be no separate Elite and Plate group as has been the norm previously. All participating outfits (130 teams) will be divided into groups of four who will then play 45-over preliminary-round matches in a knockout format till the quarter-final stage.
IES Raja Shivaji players practice at Matunga’s Dadkar Maidan yesterday
The top 16 teams at the end of the knockouts will then be divided into four Elite Division groups, where they will play in a league-cum-knockout format.
The quarter-final losers (one from each group) will make the Plate Division semis.
Govind Koli, coach of IES Digambar Patkar Vidyalaya (Dadar), which played in the Plate Division last season, gave the new format a thumbs up. “Till last year, nobody bothered if a player scored runs in Plate Division as the Elite league always took centerstage. But with the new format, things will not be the same this year,” Koli told mid-day.
IES Raja Shivaji (Dadar) coach Ashok Nagwekar though felt MSSA should have two different tournaments. “Instead of having the 45-over and league format in one tournament, MSSA should have two separate tournaments giving players a chance to play both formats,” he said.
Last year’s runners-up team IES VN Sule Guruji’s (Dadar) coach Gopal Koli however felt that the new format would break the barrier between the Elite and Plate divisions. “It’s a good move by MSSA to have a level playing field. There will be no difference between the Elite and Plate Division now,” he said.
Don Bosco (Matunga) coach Rohan Nagvekar felt the tournament would give players the opportunity to adapt to different formats.
“Teams will get to play more matches and players will have to adapt to playing the knockouts and the league in quick succession. This could be tricky because a good team could get knocked out early,” said the Matunga school coach.
An IES Digambar Patkar player bowls during a practice session at Dadkar Maidan yesterday. Pics/Atul Kamble
Meanwhile, last year’s semi-finalists Al-Barkaat MMI (Kurla) coach Nafees Khan said that the pride associated with playing in the Elite Division is lost in this new format. “Till last year, we had two separate tournaments in both Harris and Giles — Elite Division and Plate Division. There was a certain pride that was associated with being a part of the Elite Division. But with this new format, every team will have to start from scratch,” he said.
Defending champions Rizvi Springfield (Bandra) coach, Raju Pathak, said: “We have no issues with any format. There is nothing good or bad about the format as we play to win.”