The BCCI is likely to change the knockouts qualification format in the Ranji Trophy, bringing in pre-quarterfinals from the next season. The Indian Express understands that the revamp is being mulled because, in the existing format, many top teams have been missing out on knockout berths, while qualification from the Elite Group C and the Plate Group appears to be relatively easier. And when the quarterfinalists from the lower rungs are facing the teams from the top tier, the mismatch is evident.
The gulf in class was obvious during the Bengal versus Odisha quarterfinal here at the DRIEMS College ground. Bengal, despite being reduced to 46/5 on the first day, cruised to the semifinal. The hosts had been poor, both tactically and skill-wise, after the pitch lost its zip. Odisha committed some elementary errors.
In another quarterfinal, Jammu & Kashmir frittered away an excellent opportunity to secure the first-innings lead against Karnataka despite being just 15 runs shy of the target at one stage, with three wickets in hand. J&K folded up inside 45 overs in their second innings to lose the match by 167 runs.
Odisha and J&K had come to the quarterfinals from the Elite Group C. The latter had six outright victories in the group stage, while Odisha had five, including four seven-pointers. Goa had qualified from the Plate Group, registering seven wins in nine matches. In the quarterfinal, they lost to Gujarat by 464 runs.
Domestic giants like Mumbai, Delhi, Tamil Nadu and Punjab, and back-to-back Ranji Trophy winners Vidarbha, on the other hand, couldn’t qualify, as the current format allowed only top five teams from the Elite Group A and Group B combined to go through.
It is learnt that at the moment, a plan is afoot to have three teams each from the Elite Group A and Group B to the quarterfinals and then organising two pre-quarterfinals involving the top teams from the Elite Group C and the Plate Group. Bengal head coach Arun Lal, however, has a different suggestion.
“Top four teams each from the Elite Group A and Group B and one team each from the Elite Group C and the Plate Group should form the pool (after the group stage). Then, have pre-quarterfinals, where the Group C toppers will face the fourth team from Group A and the Plate Group leaders will be up against the fourth team from Group B. After that we should have the quarterfinals. In that way, you will have only two additional matches and only one extra week in the domestic cricket calendar. I will take my case to the BCCI Captains and Coaches Conclave and if they don’t agree with my suggestions, I will also urge them to explain the reasons for denial,” Lal said.
Senior Bengal batsman Manoj Tiwary concurred. “A change would be better, for, at the moment, some quarterfinals aren’t offering the desired level of competition. The BCCI should look into this and make sure that the teams that deserve to be in the quarterfinals should go through. I think three teams from Group C and the Plate Group (two plus one) are too many.” Tamil Nadu coach Diwakar Vasu extended his support to Lal’s suggestion. “I totally agree with Arun bhai. That would be a great format,” Vasu said.
Tamil Nadu finished ninth in the Elite cross pool and missed out on knockouts qualification. “At the moment, it’s quite unfair. Another problem is that we don’t know which team has got how many points, because it’s not in one group. So every team is going for outright wins. If you look at the number of outright victories (this season), in the history of the Ranji Trophy, this number of outright victories has never happened,” he observed.
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