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What is Ranji Trophy?
The Ranji Trophy derives its name from one of India’s early Test cricketers, Ranjitsinhji. He is known for his association with England and Sussex. Primarily focused on regional competitions, this cricket tournament can be described as a domestic first-class series where regional teams compete against each other. Its inauguration dates back to 1934, with the initial matches occurring during the 1934-35 season. The trophy was generously donated by Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala.
The Ranji Trophy has garnered considerable popularity over the years and now holds a status akin to county cricket in England. It serves as a crucial platform for nurturing talented Indian cricketers, with selection into the national team often based on their performance in Ranji matches. Currently, 27 teams participate in the tournament, representing at least one team from 21 of the 29 Indian states. The competition’s format has undergone several changes, currently adopting a two-tier structure. Notably, besides regional cricket boards, government teams such as the Railways team and other entities associated with government enterprises also actively participate in the tournament.
Teams in Ranji Trophy
The current tournament consists of 38 teams, encompassing all 28 states in India, four of the eight union territories, and two teams representing the armed forces (Railways and Services). Maharashtra and Gujarat, two states, each contribute three representative teams to the competition. Mumbai, a dominant force in domestic cricket, holds the record for the most Ranji Trophy victories, securing the title 41 times. The tournament’s format has undergone multiple changes over the decades. In the 2021-22 domestic season, the Ranji Trophy featured eight Elite groups, each comprising four teams, and a Plate group for the remaining teams. Following round-robin matches in each group, the top seven Elite group winners advanced directly to the quarterfinals, while the Elite group H winner faced off against the Plate group winners in the pre-quarterfinals. For the 2022-23 season, the format reverts to four Elite groups, each consisting of eight teams, alongside a Plate group.
Ranji Trophy 2023-24 Season
How Long Does the Tournament Run?
The Ranji season, which began on January 5, will span a duration of ten weeks. The Elite final is scheduled for March 10, while the Plate final is set to take place on February 17.
What’s the Format?
It has become customary to maintain the quality of the tournament. The Elite competition consists of 32 teams, organized into four groups of eight. Every team participates in seven league games, and the top two from each group advance to the quarter-finals. Relegation applies to the bottom two teams across all four Elite groups, considering both points and quotient. The Plate competition features six teams engaging in a single round-robin format, with the top four progressing to the knockout stage. The finalists from the Plate competition earn qualification for the Elite division in the subsequent season.
Who Has Been Promoted and Relegated Coming into This Season?
Hyderabad, having suffered defeats in six out of their seven matches during the 2022-23 season, now finds themselves in the relegation zone alongside Nagaland. Also in the Plate group are Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Sikkim. On the other hand, Bihar and Manipur, who faced off in the Plate final last season, have secured promotion in the current season.
How Compelling Are the Elite Groups?
Group A consists of defending champions Saurashtra, two-time champions Vidarbha, Haryana, Vijay Hazare Trophy winners Services, and other competitive teams. In Group B, Mumbai, boasting 41 titles, shares the stage with Andhra, Assam, and last season’s runners-up Bengal. In Group C, Karnataka, a formidable team with eight titles, shares the stage with strong contenders Tamil Nadu and Punjab, who recently clinched the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. Moving on to Group D, Delhi, amidst internal conflicts within the association leading up to the tournament, has named a 26-member squad.
A Recap of the Previous Season
In a repeat of the 2019-20 final, Saurashtra secured their second Ranji crown by defeating Bengal, with Jaydev Unadkat, their captain, delivering a standout performance in the decisive match. The disappointment for Bengal led to a reversal for Manoj Tiwary, who, after recently announcing the end of his career, decided to embark on one last season as captain. Tiwary aims to conclude his captaincy tenure with the elusive title, as Bengal’s last Ranji Trophy victory dates back to the 1989-90 season.
Venues for The Ranji Trophy
The charm of the Ranji Trophy lies in its ability to bring premier first-class cricket to distant regions of the country. As an illustration, the Ranji match scheduled at the Indira Gandhi Stadium in Solapur, Maharashtra, marks the first time in 29 years for the venue. The Elite tournament is set to unfold across 48 locations, with the Plate league taking place at five different venues.
Who are the International Stars We Can Expect?
With a five-Test series scheduled in January-February, the performances of Ajinkya Rahane representing Mumbai and Cheteshwar Pujara representing Saurashtra are likely to attract considerable attention. Hanuma Vihari and Mayank Agarwal, the leading run-scorer of the 2022-23 season, will take charge of Andhra and Karnataka teams. The inclusion of Kuldeep Yadav and Rinku Singh will be contingent on their national commitments. Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav are set to represent Delhi and Vidarbha, respectively. In the Plate group, Tilak Varma will assume leadership responsibilities for Hyderabad whenever he is available.
Notable Absentees in Ranji Trophy 2023-24 to Begin With:
Prithvi Shaw is currently in the process of recovering from an ACL injury that required surgical intervention. Since his brief county stint with Northamptonshire in July-August of the previous year, he has not participated in any form of cricket. It is anticipated that Prithvi Shaw will be absent from the first three rounds of Ranji Trophy current season. Dinesh Karthik, who captained Tamil Nadu in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, with an apparent focus on the IPL, will not be partaking in first-class cricket. Additionally, Harshal Patel, a key player in Haryana’s victorious Vijay Hazare campaign, is expected to miss at least the initial two rounds due to a hip issue. The selectors have decided to omit K Gowtham, the all-rounder from Karnataka, as they opt to overhaul their spin attack with a forward-looking perspective.
What’s the One Aspect the Selectors Will Keenly Look Out For?
Support has been enlisted for R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja in the form of reinforcements. Rahul Chahar has expressed his commitment to participating in the entire season for Rajasthan. He is aspiring to leave a lasting impression in red-ball cricket. Manav Suthar, a left-arm-spinner, garnered attention last year by securing 39 wickets in six games. Saurabh Kumar, a consistently impressive performer in domestic and India A cricket, is poised to elevate his game. In the realm of emerging batters, keep an eye on Nikin Jose, Riyan Parag, Pradosh Ranjan Paul, and Yash Dhull.