New Delhi, Feb 16 Ranji Trophy, the backbone of India’s domestic cricket scene, is all set to begin from Thursday after an absence of a season due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Come Thursday, the sight of cricketers featuring in India’s premier first-class competition with the red cherry would be a sight to behold.
Pushed from its original starting date of January 13 due to the third wave of Covid-19 cases in India, the stage is now set for Ranji Trophy to happen. Amidst a drop in cases, nine centres will host 57 league stage matches featuring 38 teams. The teams have been divided into eight elite groups and one plate group and will be staying in the bio-secure environment (bio-bubbles). The league stage will have just three matches for most of the teams, which means that there is very little margin of error in order to progress to the knockouts.
Senior Test batters Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane will be seen in action on day one of the Ranji Trophy when their respective sides Saurashtra and Mumbai squaring-off in Ahmedabad. The duo, under pressure due to a lean patch in Test cricket, will have to get big runs as the squad announcement for Tests against Sri Lanka in March is expected soon.
The focus will also be on other Test players like Hanuma Vihari (Hyderabad), Navdeep Saini (Delhi), Mayank Agarwal (Karnataka), Prithvi Shaw (Mumbai), Jaydev Unadkat (Saurashtra), Jayant Yadav (Haryana) and Umesh Yadav (Vidarbha).
Others who were part of India’s A trip to South Africa and will be itching to dish out good performances are Priyank Panchal (Gujarat), Abhimanyu Easwaran (Bengal), Sarfaraz Khan (Mumbai), Baba Aparajith (Tamil Nadu), KS Bharat (Andhra Pradesh), K Gowtham (Karnataka), Arzan Nagwaswalla (Gujarat), Devdutt Padikkal (Karnataka), Ishan Porel (Bengal) and Umran Malik (Jammu and Kashmir).
Then there are members of the recent U19 World Cup-winning team who are entering the senior cricket arena. Yash Dhull, who captained India to their fifth U19 World Cup title, is included in Delhi’s squad so is Aneeshwar Gautam in Karnataka’s squad. Left-arm pacer Ravi Kumar is part of Bengal’s squad while Harnoor Singh and Raj Bawa are there in the Chandigarh squad. Wicketkeeper-batter Dinesh Bana and all-rounder Nishant Sindhu have found spots in Haryana’s squad while spinners Vicky Ostwal and Kaushal Tambe will turn out for Maharashtra.
In terms of points distribution, an outright win is worth six points. If a team wins by an innings or ten wickets, a bonus point will be added. The first-innings lead will fetch a team three points while the team conceding the lead will get just one point.
As far as Covid-19 provisions are concerned, teams have been advised to keep two reserve players in the squad. If a Covid outbreak happens, then a team with nine fit players can continue playing the match. Teams in a match will be awarded a point each if the first innings cannot be completed. The match between Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh will be broadcasted live on Star Sports.
Ranji Trophy First Round Schedule:
Kerala vs Meghalaya, Elite Group A (Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium, Rajkot)
Gujarat vs Madhya Pradesh, Elite Group A (Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium, Rajkot)
Hyderabad vs Chandigarh, Elite Group B (Vikash Cricket Ground, Bhubaneswar)
Bengal vs Baroda, Elite Group B (Barabati Stadium, Cuttack)
Jammu and Kashmir vs Puducherry, Elite Group C (SSN College Ground, Chennai)
Karnataka vs Railways, Elite Group C (IC-Gurunanak College Ground, Chennai)
Saurashtra vs Mumbai, Elite Group D (Narendra Modi Stadium Ground ‘A’, Ahmedabad)
Odisha vs Goa, Elite Group D (Narendra Modi Stadium Ground ‘B’, Ahmedabad)
Services vs Uttarakhand, Elite Group E (Greenfield Stadium, Thiruvananthapuram)
Andhra vs Rajasthan, Elite Group E (St’Xavier’s KCA Cricket Ground, Thiruvananthapuram)
Haryana vs Tripura, Elite Group F (Airforce Complex ground, Palam, Delhi)
Punjab vs Himachal Pradesh, Elite Group F (Arun Jaitley Stadium, Delhi)
Maharashtra vs Assam, Elite Group G (Chaudhry Bansi Lal Cricket Stadium, Lahli, Rohtak)
Vidarbha vs Uttar Pradesh, Elite Group G (Gurugram Cricket Ground (SRNCC), Sultanpur, Gurugram)
Jharkhand vs Chhattisgarh, Elite Group H (Nehru Stadium, Guwahati)
Delhi vs Tamil Nadu, Elite Group H (ACA Stadium, Barsapara, Guwahati)
Manipur vs Arunachal Pradesh, Plate (CCFC Ground, Kolkata)
Nagaland vs Sikkim, Plate (22 Yards, Salt Lake, Kolkata)
Bihar vs Mizoram, Plate (JU Second Campus, Salt Lake, Kolkata)