In our first look at the Indian Domestic Circuit, we took a look at India’s premier/first/oldest domestic tournament “The Ranji Trophy“. As we take our series forward we take a look at the other two domestic tournaments that are operated under First Class match rules: The Irani and The Duleep Trophy.
Both these contests are more “Champion Of Champions” affair than your regular Ranji Trophy structure. The teams are often divided regionally (North, South, East and West), and hence have a larger and better pool of players to choose from. Because of low number of teams, the tournament is also smaller in duration (the Irani trophy is just 1 match). Being smaller in size doesn’t mean they are smaller in stature though, as these tournaments are the final stepping stones for a player ready to break into the Indian National team. Irani and Duleep Trophy provide an unique opportunity to prove your mettle against teams who are more or less the best India has to offer. You need to have great Ranji numbers to break into any team here, but if you back it up with a good run in these matches, a place in the Indian Squad is almost guaranteed.
The trophy was started by the BCCI in 1962-63 and was was named after Kumar Shri Duleepsinhji (a nephew of Ranji, and an illustrated cricketer himself). There are 5 teams divided Zonally (North, South, East, West And Central). Players are picked from Ranji teams that fall in each zones, and the 5 teams compete in a knockout format (I know 5 teams+knockout=strange, but find the schedule here). All the matches are 4 day affairs except for the final which is a 5 day game (the rules stay the same as followed in Ranji).
The tournament is traditionally played after the season is over, and is usually an oppurtunity/reward for Ranji performers to show their might on zonal level and earmark themselves for a national call up. As the Zone teams are picked up by selecting the best players from the constituent states, even a player from a lesser ranked team can get a chance to play along side the best in the business by playing for his zone.
The BCCI also uses this tournament for different experimentations, for eg. all matches in the Duleep Trophy are played with the Kookaburra. Also the pitches are rolled over on alternative days than on consecutive ones. They have even changed the format, allowing for foriegn List A teams to compete in the tournament (even Bangaladesh competed once).
With a packed cricket calendar, cries of Duleep being meaningless have increased over the years (this article here makes a great case for it). But for the time being it remains the favorite hunting ground of stalent scouts and selectors.
The concept of the Irani trophy is very simple and straight forward. The winner of the Ranji Trophy would compete against a team comprising of players from rest of the country; the winner takes home the trophy and the bragging rights. There is just 1 match, no home-away, no best of 3, just 1 match to prove that the champions are better than the rest of Ranji combined (which is aptly called ‘Rest Of India’) or vice-versa.
The tournament is named after the late Z.R. Irani and was concieved in 1959-60, making it the 2nd oldest first class tournament in India. As is expected R.O.I have dominated this tournament winning it an astonishing 25 times (other winners include Bombay, Delhi and Karnataka). Initially the tournament was played at the end of the Ranji season, but since 1965-66 it has heralded the beginning of the new season. Once again it is an oppurtunity to prove your salt against the best of what this nation has to offer, and the match is closely followed by the Indian cricket enthusiast everywhere.With that we finish our round-up of the first-class domestic cricket structure in India. Catch us next week as we break down the Indian domestic limited over tournaments in our on-going love affair with Indian Cricket. Till then, tell us what you think about Duleep and Irani trophy. Do you think Duleep should be scraped, do you think Irani should be made a best of 3 affair, or could you care less as long as you have I.P.L.. Comment and tell us what you think.
This is the 2nd part in a series on Indian Domestic Cricket. Find the other parts here:
Part 1: The Ranji Trophy
Part 3: Vijay Hazare, Challengers and other One-day Domestic Tournaments
Part 4: The I.P.L.