December 12, 2010

Ranji Trophy, 2010-11

Is it fair to have semi-finals in the Plate League?

Aakash Chopra
Pankaj Singh steams in during practice, Perth, January 14, 2008
Pankaj Singh's 31 wickets have helped Rajasthan top their group in this year's Ranji Trophy Plate League  © Getty Images
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The two semi-finals in the Ranji Trophy Plate League are going to be crucial, with the big promotion to the elite group at stake. Four teams from the Plate League - Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra and Maharashtra - after having played some tough cricket for over a month and a half, and finishing in the top two in their respective groups, are now set to lock horns in their most important fixtures of the year. Will they continue to be the poor cousins of the elite teams? or get upgraded and play the quarter-finals of the Ranji Trophy? It all depends on these two Plate League knockout matches.

But is it fair to have so much riding on one game of cricket? Isn't beating the fellow teams and topping the league good enough for a promotion? The twelve teams that make up the Plate division get split into two groups of six, and play five matches each over the season. Topping their group, therefore, cannot be a case of good luck, but consistent performance. Unfortunately, that is not considered an achievement enough, and the teams are asked to go an extra step to claim a spot. The team standing first in a given group is asked to play the runners-up of the other group, which means a second-placed team has as much chance of reaching the Ranji Trophy quarter-finals as a first-placed team. Is this justified?

In some cases, the second-placed team even ends up getting the home advantage. This year, Rajasthan, after topping their group, will play a game against Maharashtra in Nasik, their home turf. Clearly, the latter will have an upper-hand, which may not be the right thing in ideal circumstances. Are we rewarding mediocrity?

Delhi would have struggled to win the Ranji Trophy in 2007 had they played the finals against Uttar Pradesh at Kanpur or Lucknow, for their poor spin attack was no secret. UP, without doubt, would have opted for a rank turner and it may have been enough to see them through. But the final in Mumbai, a neutral venue, ensured a brilliant wicket for cricket that allowed the better team to win, albeit over five days. And that's a crucial point: a five-day game is in my opinion a must for all knockout matches. Most four-day games are decided on the basis of first-innings lead, which may be fine in the league phase, but is grossly unfair in a knockout match. In fact, in the 2007 final, Delhi had conceded the first innings lead, but had enough time to bounce back and win the finals because it was a five-day game. Had it been a four-day affair, they would never have won the trophy.

Reaching the elite group is a tough task, and teams must toil to get a spot. But the argument here is not about the severity of the challenges posed, but their rationality.

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

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Posted by Najwa on (March 2, 2012, 18:10 GMT)

I really don't like the eetffin teams/league idea. In my perfect world they'd get rid of interleague play, make a balanced schedule (have each team in each league play each other roughly the same number of games) and have the four best teams in each league qualify for the playoffs.

Posted by Kanha on (December 28, 2010, 6:40 GMT)

there should be 16 teams in elite group in spite of fifteen.... there should be 12 teams in plate group. quterfinals and semifinals have five days....................... and Semi Finalist teams should be directly promoted to Elite league & bottom 4 from Elite should come to Plate league..... this would be very interesting......

Posted by Rahu on (December 14, 2010, 6:53 GMT)

Many of the plate league matches are decided on first innings lead, so there could be some luck involved in gaining the first innings lead.So being the group toppers doesnt mean much at that level. Since there are two groups in the plate league, it could be that one group is quite weak and the other too strong, so a semifinals make sense. Having a one sided attack (like strong pace and weak spin of Delhi that the author mentioned) is a drawback. Let teams select a balanced attack and win on merit rather than relying too much on the pitch. The best solution is to give the visiting team the toss without actually doing the coin toss. The visiting captain has the option of decidint whether to bat or bowl first. This takes away the home advantage to an extend. Often we see toss being the deciding factor in a game played over five days which doesnt reward merit.

Posted by Siam on (December 13, 2010, 16:27 GMT)

it is not only about whether their should be semi-finals in Ranji Trophy plate league or not. the main thing is that, their should be a massive change in the format of Ranji Trophy. In order to make it more attractive & competitive.

Posted by Navs on (December 13, 2010, 15:30 GMT)

Why my previous comments was not posted it's my point of view, for the next time surely i'll remember and never post any comment even not visit the site if my previous comment was not posted here.

Posted by bhuvan on (December 13, 2010, 6:48 GMT)

Akash may be feeling the pinch this year as he is playing for Rajasthan. Yet, think about this, the second placed team in both plate groups are almost as good as the first placed team. It is only fair to allow them another chance to play the winner of the other group to enter the premier league. Yes, there may be a case for five day semi finals

Posted by Nimesh on (December 13, 2010, 4:57 GMT)

I always feel that every season, Semi Finalist teams should be directly promoted to Elite league & bottom 4 from Elite should come to Plate league

It is very unfair for Plate group SF teams,that after playing entire season, reach the SF & the lose out in SF stage, & then remain Plate group for another year.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.

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