The 2021-22 Ranji Trophy will be held in two phases, with the IPL in between. The first phase, which consists of league matches and one pre-quarter-final, starts on February 17 and ends on March 15. The IPL is expected to start on March 27. Before the Ranji pre-quarter-final, there will be three rounds of matches held: the first from February 17 to 20, then February 24 to 27, and finally, from March 3 to 6. The second phase, of the knockouts, is likely to begin on May 30 - after the IPL has concluded - and run up to June 26.
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'If I get picked for India, can I make a difference?'
Yes. Batter Yash Dhull, who led India to their fifth Under-19 world title, is a part of Delhi's squad. Quick bowler Ravi Kumar has been named in the Bengal side. Batter Harnoor Singh and allrounder Raj Angad Bawa are in the Chandigarh squad. Wicketkeeper-batter Dinesh Bana and allrounder Nishant Sindhu have been picked by Haryana. And offspinners Vicky Ostwal and Kaushal Tambe will play for Maharashtra.
The last time the tournament was conducted was during the 2019-20 season, when Saurashtra won the final against Bengal. But the Ranji Trophy had to be shelved during the following season because of pandemic. It was the first time the tournament, India's premier first-class competition, had not featured in the calendar since its inception in the 1934-35 season.
A total of 38 teams will be participating this season, and they have been divided into nine groups: eight Elite and one Plate. While the Elite groups have four teams each, the Plate Group has six sides in it.
The ranking order of the teams will be decided by points. Should teams be level on points, then the number of outright wins becomes the deciding factor. If it's still not conclusive, the quotient rule comes into play. This will be determined by dividing the team's batting average by their bowling average.
Of the eight Elite-Group toppers, the seven with the best numbers qualify directly for the quarter-finals. For the final quarter-finalist, the Elite-group topper with the fewest points gets into a pre-quarter-final with the Plate-group topper. The pre-quarter-final will be played just after the league phase, and will end before the start of the IPL.
The Elite matches will all be held across eight states, all neutral to the teams in action. Rajkot, Cuttack, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Thiruvananthapuram, Thumba, Delhi, Rohtak, Gurugram, Sultanpur and Guwahati will be the cities where matches will be played. All the Plate matches will be conducted in Kolkata. The venue for the pre-quarter-final and the knockouts will be decided later.
In case a player tests positive for Covid-19 or shows symptoms which prevents his participation in a match as per public health guidance norms, the match referee can allow his team to field a Covid-19 replacement after getting the necessary confirmations. However, the player coming in should only be a like-for-like replacement so as to prevent the side from getting any undue advantage.
Himanshu Agrawal is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo