Today we start a series which will take a look at the Indian cricket’s domestic scene. Everyone and their grandmother know what the I.P.L. is. But contrary to what most people think (or would like to believe), it’s not India’s premier domestic tournament, nor is it the proving or breeding ground for India’s brightest talents. What is Ranji? Who is Deodar? Who plays in the Challenger’s trophy? The answer to all these and more, would be answered in this series. In its 1st edition, we discuss perhaps the most important domestic tournament of them all, a tournament, known as the Ranji Trophy.
India’s equivalent to England’s County Championship, or Australia’s Sheffield Shield. The tournament was conceived in 1934, and is named after Kumar Shri Ranjitsinhji (An Indian prince who played for the England Cricket Team). Teams mostly represent the states of India, though some are not represented (Arunachal Pradesh ,Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Uttarakhand; Also none of the Union Territories except Delhi), 3 cities get their own representation (Mumbai, Baroda and Hyderabad), 2 regional representations (Vidharba and Saurashtra; both in Gujarat) and 2 teams based in Delhi with no regional affiliations (Services and Railways).
All matches are played over a 4 day format , except for the final which is played over 5 days, with an extra 6th day if no result is reached. All matches are played under Test Match rules (known as first class format in cricket), and if the match is a draw the team with the first innings lead wins (in case of knockouts, and an extra point if its in the league stage). Mumbai has dominated Ranji, since its inception, winning the trophy a whopping 40 times (including the most recent in 2013 season). Other winners have included Delhi, U.P. and Rajasthan among others.
The league format has been changed multiple times, to accommodate fair and better competition. In the current format, teams are divided into 3 divisions (A,B and C), for the league stages. The top 3 teams from Division A and B and the top 2 from C qualify for the knockout stages. Each year, the bottom team from division A is relegated to B and the bottom from B relegated to C. As their replacement the top team from C is promoted to B, and the top team from B to A.
The point system being employed in the current Ranji Trophy:
|Bonus Point (for innings and 10 wicket wins)||1|
|1st Innings Lead||3 *|
|1st Innings Deficit||1 *|
Ranji, just like any other tournament is not perfect. A huge amount of importance is put on the 1st innings lead with teams looking to draw the match instead of going for the win if they are ahead in the 1st attempts. The pitches hugely favor batsmen, and a lot of batsmen are made to look better than what they really are. Another downside of batting friendly pitches is the poor turnaround for quality bowlers; you get bowlers who can toil and toil and wait for a batsman’s mistake, but not ones who produces wickets by trying and looking for them.
In spite of all that, Ranji remains the most revered playing ground for any Indian cricketer. Its the breeding ground for young talent, the proving ground of returning players, and the training ground of the veterans. You can be as flamboyant and special in the I.P.L., but until you have a good Ranji record, you will in all probability not make it. The competition boasts of legendary averages (Ravindra Jadeja has 3 triple hundreds in Ranji), eternal careers (Sunil Joshi and Wasim Jaffer have been playing since I can remember) and a bunch load of Cinderella stories (Saurav Ganguly came back after a stellar Ranji run), with a splattering of heart breaks (players like Badrinath, and Jaffer who lost out their international careers to Sachin, Saurav, Dravid and Laxman inspite of having awesome Ranji stats).
With the advent of media in to every walk of our life and sites like cricinfo, the Ranji has come much more into the spotlight than it has ever been. I.P.L. might be the NFL of Indian Cricket, but Ranji is like NCAA. Its where the grind happens, its here where you learn the ropes, its where potential meets hard work. Its where you become the cricketer you were meant to be, a polished product ready to perform in the IPL or on the International stage.
So the next time you see a name picked for the national test team which you haven’t heard about (or didn’t perform quite well in the IPL), how about you pull up his stats in Ranji before you go bad-mouthing him, his wife and the selectors (not to mention his relations with the selector).Check back with us next time, as we discuss other domestic tournaments that take place in India. Until then tell us what you think of the Ranji, and/or the Indian Domestic circuit in the comments section.
This is the 1st part in a series on Indian Domestic Cricket. Find the other parts here:
Part 2: Irani and The Duleep trophy
Part 3: Vijay Hazare, Challengers and other One-day Domestic Tournaments
Part 4: The I.P.L.