May 9, 2001

Changes suggested in Ranji, Duleep format

Staff Reporter

As in life, change is the essence of cricket. The game must move with the times and this is true not only of international cricket but also of the domestic game. The Ranji Trophy and the Duleep Trophy, the two most prestigious national tournaments have undergone many changes in the 67 years and 40 years respectively since their inception.

The premier inter-state national competition was initially played on a knock out basis. In 1957-58 it was changed to a league cum knock out pattern. In 1970-71, while the format remained much the same, two teams instead of one qualified for the knock out in a bid to make the final rounds more interesting. For the past few years, three teams have been allowed to qualify from each of the five zones and the matches have been played either on knock out or super league format before the final.

The Duleep Trophy inter-zonal championship has undergone less change. Played on knock out format for more than 30 years, it was held on a league pattern for three years in the 90s. Thereafter it was back to the knock out format till this season when it was held again on a league basis.

Now if a proposal by the West Zone associations is given serious thought by the Board of Control for Cricket in India, there could be more changes in the Ranji Trophy and Duleep Trophy format. The associations for example have suggested that the Duleep Trophy should again be played on a knock out basis since the league format, it is felt is long drawn in a season that is already chock-full with various matches, domestic and international.

For the Ranji Trophy, a more revolutionary change has been suggested, based on promotion and relegation. The plan, as envisaged, is that the 15 teams which qualified for the knock out should be placed in two groups while the 12 who did not qualify should be placed in two other groups. After league matches between the competing teams in the four groups, the sides which finish last in the first two groups will be relegated while the sides which finish top of the other two groups will earn promotion. The top four teams in each of the first two groups will then play a knock out (quarterfinal) round to decide the winner of the trophy.

It is believed that this move has been thought of as some of the matches at the zonal level are hopelessly lop sided. There are teams in some of the zones that have not shown the desired improvement while some past giants have fallen on lean days. According to the format suggested by the West Zone associations, matches in which there is hardly any competition will be reduced considerably and the general standard will be higher and the games more keenly fought, even at the zonal level.

Suggestions have also been made for changes in the format for various junior tournaments. In the under-14 tournament for example there is a plea that the matches be reduced to two days duration as the existing three day format is taxing on the youngsters. The suggestions will be forwarded to the BCCI who are expected to refer them to the technical committee which is likely to meet in New Delhi next week.