Tag Archives: Ranji

Changes to the Ranji Trophy… Not enough

The BCCI’s technical committee, which included former players, Saurav Ganguly and Roger Binny — along with ‘special invitee’, Anil Kumble — recently recommended an overhaul of the Ranji Trophy, India’s premier first-class tournament.

The Ranji Trophy currently has 27 teams divided into 2 Divisions; one called Elite with 15 teams and the other, the Plate, with 12 teams. The Elite league is split into two groups, one with 8 teams and the other with 7. The Plate league is split into two groups with 6 teams in each. A collection of teams from these groups then fight it out at the knock-out stage of the Ranji Trophy competition. The people who decided on this current structure either had a lot of fun, smoked a rare kind of weed or had a gun stuck to their heads (or all of the above)!

Thankfully, the BCCI’s Technical Committee suggested an overhaul of the Ranji structure. They have recommended the scrapping of the Elite and Plate divisions and have suggested a rearrangement of the 27 teams into three groups of nine each. I am sure the BCCI will come up with imaginative names for these three groups although PlateCup and Saucer are my initial offerings.  This is certainly not a bad suggestion by the Technical Committee. Indeed, I campaigned for a somewhat similar restructure nearly 5 years ago.

In my view, this current overhaul is a step in the right direction; but it not quite enough. There are several reasons why this is just not enough, in my view:

  • The Premier Division should contain fewer teams that play each other more often.
  • There is no reason for constructing the knock out competition in the manner suggested unless one is worried about elitism and a complaint from Ram Guha about the lack of adequate representation for the down-trodden.
  • The Ranji Trophy, the primer inter-State tournament in India and the tournament from which India gets to harvest the next generation of talent, lasts a bit over 2 months! The Sheffield Shield involves fewer teams and lasts close to 4 months.
  • There are way too many domestic tournaments that need to be squeezed into the calendar: Challengers, Corporate Cup, Irani Trophy, Ranji Trophy, Duleep Trophy, Deodhar Trophy, and the IPL.
  • The pitches should be result-oriented and the points should reward risks and outright wins far more than it currently does.

We have to assume that a league with less than 27 teams is just not feasible. Ideally, the league should have no more than 14 teams in two Divisions of 7 teams each. However, let us accept that, for a variety of political reasons, a league with a fewer number of teams is just not possible.

The best players in the competition ought to play more games against the best opposition. The reason why Australia produces a string of excellent quality players — especially bowlers — who appear to be International match-ready is, in my view, because of the intensity of the battle at the highest level. Australia’s Sheffield Shield has just six teams that play each other home and away.

In addition, the Ranji League ought to see many more result oriented pitches. Home and away games must be the norm. A 9-team league does not provide the luxury of structuring a home-away type competition.

The Technical Committee also made recommendations aimed at providing greater incentives for outright wins in the league matches. The current suggestion is that outright wins will be worth six points (as opposed to the current five) and the bonus point system (for ten-wicket wins or innings victories) will remain. This is not enough in my view. I agree with Aakash Chopra on this suggested change. A team that wins ought to get a purse of Rs 15 Lakh (a lakh per player) and teams that draw ought to receive just Rs 1.5 Lakh, say (ten thousand per player). We might then see teams behaving differently. The reward that is on offer might see teams take on different kinds of risks. I also think that the points system ought to be tweaked much more in favour of a win. I would have made a win worth 10 points.

The current model that has been suggested by the Working Committee is that

  • Nine teams from the three Divisions play each other once only.
  • The 3 top teams from Division-A the 3 top teams from Division-B and the 2 top teams from Division-C play in the knockout phase; a phase during which players from the remaining 19 teams twiddle their thumbs and prepare for the IPL!

There is no real justification for having a knockout stage constructed in this strange manner unless we want to (a) satisfy the romance of another Rajasthan happening, (b) give Aakash Chopra an opportunity to write another book and/or (c) keep Ramachandra Guha from picking up his pen once again in a show of anger at the lack of democratic representation!

The real problem I have with the suggestion that is on the table is that it does not promote a drive to excellence as much and as hard. It just does not go far enough in my view.

A different model:

I would like to see the BCCI Technical Committee consider a totally different model though:

  • Split the current 27 teams into 4 Divisions: Div-A (6 teams), Div-B (6 teams), Div-C (7 teams) and Div-D (8 teams).
  • Each team in Division-A and B play each other at Home and Away (a total of 30 games in A and B played over 10 ’rounds’ or a max of 10 weeks).
  • Teams in Division-C play each other once and 4 of the teams again (schedule constructed in much the same way as the IPL-4 schedule was constructed) thereby resulting in a total of 39 games in C played over 10 ’rounds’ or a max of 10 weeks.
  • Teams in Division-D play each other once and 3 of the teams again (schedule constructed in much the same way as the IPL-4 schedule was constructed) thereby resulting in a total of 46 games in D played over 10 ’rounds’ or a max of 10 weeks.
  • The top 4 teams from Division-A (A1, A2, A3, A4) play for the Ranji Division-A Finals in an AFL-style (IPL-style) finals series where the winner of the league stage gets two bites of the cherry to appear in the Ranji-A finals.
  • A5, A6, B1 and B2 play an elimination-style B-Finals series to decide: (a) The Ranji Division-B Winner and Ranji Division-B runner-up. These two teams will be A5 and A6 in the next year’s Ranji Trophy. The losers play in Division-B for the next season.
  • B5, B6, C1 and C2 play an elimination-style C-Finals series to decide (a) The Ranji Division-C Winner and Ranji Division-C runner up. These two teams will be B5 and B6 in the next year’s Ranji Trophy. The losers play in Division-C for the next season.
  • C6, C7, D1 and D2 play an elimination-style D-Finals series to decide (a) The Ranji Division-D Winner and Ranji Division-D runner up. These two teams will be C6 and C7 in the next year’s Ranji Trophy. The losers play in Division-D for the next season.

In the above format, each team plays the same number of games in the league stage. The league games happen over 10 rounds and the finals series for all four Divisions would involve 3 games (or 3 rounds). So, the overall competition would take 13 rounds or just under 3 months. In the model that I have suggested above, as many as 16 of the 27 teams are involved in the knockout phase of the competition. This retains interest in the competition. This continues the engagement and interest in the results. And the relegation/promotion battles ensure that there are result-oriented matches.

Yes, this makes the Ranji Trophy last a bit longer. But, in my view, this would add to the flavour of competition – particularly in the A and B Divisions.

The best players need to bubble through the system from the best teams. A (limited and controlled) free auto loan calculator movement of players between teams will ensure that we see the best players play for the best teams. The Ranji Trophy should be about the best players being identified, nurtured and prepared. The suggestion made above has a greater chance of identifying such talent than the proposal that is currently on the table.

I would like to see the Irani Trophy, Deodhar Trophy and the Corporate Cup scrapped. These serve no real purpose in my view. In its place, if the format suggested above is adopted, at the end of the season, each Division selects its best players. Players from Division-A, Division-B, Division-C and Division-D teams (respectively) could play a revamped Duleep Trophy; one without ‘zones’. The same 4 teams could play a revamped Challenger Trophy too with teams named Division-A, Division-B, Division-C and Division-D (instead of red, blue, green and yellow).

And that would be it. Oh yes! And I would scrap the IPL too…

— Mohan (@mohank)

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The 2010-2011 Ranji Season Kicks Off

The Ranji Trophy season 2010-2011 kicked off on Monday 1 November to the stunning news of Hyderabad slumping to the lowest ever Ranji total at the hands of an 18-year old debutant pace bowler, Deepak Chahar from Rajasthan. Hyderabad made just 21 runs in their 1st innings in which Pankaj Singh bowled 8 overs (for 2 wickets) and Chahar bowled 7.3 overs for his 8 wickets! Early on the 3rd morning of the match, Hyderabad folded to an embarrassing innings defeat with Chahar getting 4 2nd Innings wickets!

The Ranji Trophy 2010-2011 announced its arrival and so did young Deepak Chahar! Although, as Sanjay Subrahmanyan says on Twitter, “Chahar gets 8 on his Ranji debut! If he had got even 4 on an IPL debut, he’d be in the Indian team! Right?”

Such is life. But for us, what this has done is that we will add Deepak Chahar to the list of players we will be “watching” in this Ranji season. This list of players includes (in no particular order):

Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Abhinav Mukund, S. Badrinath, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Manoj Tiwary, Naman Ojha, Wriddhiman Saha, Dinesh Karthik*, Monish Mishra, Abhishek Jhunjhunwala, Sourabh Tiwary*, Yusuf Pathan, Yuvraj Singh. Irfan Pathan, Robin Uthappa, Ambati Rayudu, Pankaj Singh (Deepak Chahar’s bowling partner in the Rajasthan team), Deepak Chahar, Umesh Yadav, Pradeep Sangwan, Abhimanyu Mithun, Ashish Nehra, Ashok Dinda, Jaydev Unnadkat, RP Singh, Praveen Kumar, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, R. Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja*, Piyush Chawla, Iqbal Abdulla, Sarabjit Ladha.

A few other points:

  • We do not intend “following” players like Cheteshwar Pujara, Amit Mishra, Suresh Raina and M. Vijay who have “already made it” (thus, it is likely that these above-mentioned players will play very few Ranji games this season anyway).
  • The sad reality is the paucity of spinners in the above list.
  • The players with a * by their name are in the list for their curiosity value and answers the questions: “Why are they valued?“, or “What do the selectors see in them that we do not?” or “How do they make it to where they are?“.

Other than his hairstyle which reminds us of a young Dhoni and a few thwacks in the IPL, one might, for example, wonder what Sourabh Tiwary’s credentials are? Sourabh Tiwary plays in the Plate League (against teams like Tripura, J&K, etc) and has an average of 48.9 (with 6 centuries and a highest score of 169) after 21 matches. We are not sure that that is good enough for a Ranji Plate player. More importantly, we are not sure that that is good enough to propel him into the National team.

We will post an occasional column titled “Ranji Watch” every now and then — perhaps even after each round — to see how our “watched” players fared.

In a recent article, Cricinfo featured a sharper list containing only 12 players. Their list of “hopeful men” included Ashish Nehra, R. Ashwin, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, Umesh Yadav, Jaidev Unnadkat, Irfan Pathan, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, Piyush Chawla, Abhinav Mukund and Virat Kohli. We felt that our list of 34 players, which includes all 12 names of hopefuls from the Cricinfo list, is larger and more inclusive.

Most of the above 34 players have had a steady — if not reasonable or excellent — outing in the 1st round Ranji games. Virat Kohli has scored a century. Shikar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, et al made a few runs. Pankaj Singh and Deepak Chahar were part of Hyderabad’s embarrassing rout. We will wait for the 1st round to finish before posting some observations.

Indian Domestic Scene — India-A Team

Let me say it at the start: Ranji Trophy sucks! Big time!

In fact, let me alter the statement: The whole Indian domestic scene needs a serious re-vamp that is based on cricketing logic and not on regional-voting political-considerations.

The fact that India is able to produce the sorts of cricketers that it does is perhaps despite the clutch of domestic tournaments and — in my view — not because of it.

The Ranji Trophy, the prime Inter-State tournament in India commenced on Nov 3 2009 and concluded on Jan 14 2010. In other words, the single most effective tournament, from which India gets to harvest the next generation of talent, lasts a bit over 2 months! Is that enough? More importantly, is that fair?

What’s more? The Ranji Trophy has 15 Teams in the Super League (split into 2 groups). In addition, the Ranji Plate League has 11 teams split into 2 groups?

A question to ponder first up: Does the BCCI not like even numbers? What’s wrong with a Super League that has 14 teams split in two even groups of 7? And what’s wrong with a Plate League with 12 teams split into two groups of 6 each?

Be that as it may, that is way too many teams to cram into a 2-month window of matches and still expect a good harvest of talent at the end of the pipeline. Contrast this with the Australian Domestic scene. The Sheffield Cup, which is the equivalent of the Ranji Trophy, has just 6 teams in it. The tournament commences in early-October (13 Oct 2009, in the 2009/10 season) and ends in late March (23 March 2010 in the 2009/10 season). The formula is: fewer teams, more space in between games and more opportunities for Australian national players to play a few domestic games even as the International season is under-way in Australia! Each of the 6 teams play each other at home and away. There is a sense of fairness and balance too in the crafting of a proper tournament. We then would not need neutral curators and other such artificial artefacts that the BCCI wants to implement!

No wonder Rahul Dravid talks of a longer gap between Ranji games which might lead to more interesting games and tighter finishes!

But then, as Anand Ramachandran writes funnily on Cricinfo’s Page-2 spoof, for the BCCI, the Ranji Trophy is perhaps an irritation that has to be tolerated — much like a pimple on ones’ backside. The BCCI would perhaps much rather close down the Ranji Trophy and concentrate its efforts and its money tills on the lucrative and glitzy IPL. After all, one can only glitz up the Ranjis so much!

Furthermore, there are way too many domestic tournaments that need to be squeezed into the calendar. Soak this in. Challengers, Corporate Cup, Irani Trophy, Ranji Trophy, Duleep Trophy, Deodhar Trophy.

Hello! What’s going on? Is anyone even aware of the plethora of meaningless competitions that are on offer? There is a mess that needs cleaning up.

But rather than fix the whole mess, I’d like to start by suggesting a few small improvements to the Ranji Trophy which might make it more interesting for the player, the fan and the organisers with the outcome being a richer harvest of the talent pipeline.

  • Split the current 26 teams into 4 Divisions: Div-A (5 teams), Div-B (6 teams), Div-C (7 teams) and Div-D (8 teams).
  • Each team in each Division play each other at Home and Away.
  • Top two teams from Div-A play for the Ranji Finals A.
  • A4, A5, B1 and B2 play semi-finals to decide Ranji Finals B. Two losers get relegated and the two finalists stay in Division-A for next season.
  • B5, B6, C1 and C2 play semi-finals to decide Ranji Finals C. Two losers get relegated and the two finalists stay in Division-B for next season.
  • C6, C7, D1 and D2 play semi-finals to decide Ranji Finals D. The two finalists stay in Division-C for next season.
  • Teams in Div-A have more break between games and teams in Div-D have less of a gap between games and that would be “fair game”, I’d think.

But despite all the cramped schedules and the many dull draws, the Ranji Season did produce some excitement and some comfort for the Team India fan. There is certainly a good crop of young talent that is coming through the ranks.

I would certainly like to see some of the following young and talented players go as part of an India-A-Team to England, Australia and South Africa sometime this year.

M. Vijay / Ajinkya Rahane / Abhinav Mukund
Cheteshwar Pujara / Suresh Raina
Rohit Sharma / Mithun Manhas
Virat Kohli / Manish Pandey
S. Badrinath (capt)
Wriddhiman Saha / Puneet Bisht (wk)
Irfan Pathan / Ravindra Jadeja
Ashok Dinda / Abhimanyu Mithun
Sudeep Tyagi / R. P. Singh / Munaf Patel
Iqbal Abdulla / Aushik Srinivas
Piyush Chawla / R Ashwin

Most of the above had a good Ranji season and are knocking on the doors of national selection. It would be good to see them have a taste of conditions elsewhere before they play there in senior colours. Although players like Virat Kohli or Suresh Raina or Badrinath have played in Australia (in the Emerging Players Cup in 2009, for example), it is only reinforcement as well as repeated exposure that will remove fear of alien conditions from their minds.

— Mohan

Ranji Finals…

The Ranji Finals between Mumbai and Karnataka was a close run thing this year with Mumbai pipping Karnataka to the post with a whisker. The Ranji Trophy deserved a close and well-fought final and that’s what we got.

The big news is that Manish Pandey has arrived. After a lack-lustre beginning to his career where he bombed in the last U19 World Cup (which India won with Virat Kohli as captain) and after an ordinary initial Ranji season for Karnataka, he bootstrapped his career with a scintillating IPL-2 and a Ranji season this year.

At 882 runs this season, he tops the run-scorers’ list in the Ranji’s.

I think that it is a matter of time before he breaks into the Indian Test and ODI team. I know it is a big call and with Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara in the queue ahead of him for a Team India Test cap, it is perhaps even a foolish call to make. But I’d like to watch this lad grow in stature. I feel he has what it takes.

But what about this catch that Pandey took to get Abhishek Nayar out in the Mumbai 2nd innings. I don’t think I have seen a better catch on a cricket field!

— Mohan

Ranji Trophy 2007-08

Mahesh Krishnan sounded the bugle for the 74th Ranji Trophy 2007-08 season in his earlier post. I will be looking forward to the “Ranji Player Watch” series that Mahesh Krishnan has suggested. We will also try and provide round-by-round analysis here at the conclusion of each round.

The 74th ‘Ranji season’ kicks off Saturday 3 November 2007. Most matches will commence on 3 Nov, with two matches — Bengal V Hyderabad and Delhi V Rajasthan — commencing Sunday 4 Nov 2007. The Bengal V Hyderabad match was postponed by a day to allow Team India use of the Eden Gardens practice facilities. The Delhi V Rajasthan game starts a day late because Delhi will play Pakistan in a tour game starting today (2 Nov 2007). In all, 13 matches will be played in this round in the Plate League and Super League.

For a curtain-raiser on the Ranji Season, see the excellent 5-part “Eye on Ranji” series in CricInfo (Part-1, Part-2, Part-3, Part-4, Part-5).

This promises to be another cracker of a season and we will try and bring the news to you as it happens.

The Teams:

Super League:
Maharashtra, Orissa, Baroda, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Andhra, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Bengal, Hyderabad, Saurashtra, Mumbai, Punjab, Delhi

Plate League:
Assam, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Railways, Services, Tripura, Vidarbha

— Mohan