Rounding up the Ranji Trophy, what happened over the past 3 months?
Updated - Jan 21, 2014 6:44 am
27 teams, 114 matches, 2 abandoned games, 57 outright results, 55 draws (56th on the way) and 472 playing days (calculated seperately). It is all that took us (infact not only us but the entire nation) to reach the conclusion for who will fight for the best of the best. The season began barely 90 days ago. Hype was over the 200th test and the retirement of Sachin Tendulkar and no one noticed the premier competition of India, the Ranji Trophy. The first match for the defending champions was Sachin’s last Ranji appearance and Mumbai entered the competition as the outright favourites, progressing towards their 41st title win.
Coming to Mumbai, it is as if the Ranji Trophy has been always specially prepared for them. 40 out of 79 trophies, 44 appearances in the final. Mumbai had won 50.63% of the Ranji seasons and a record 90.91% successful conversion rate of final appearance to title win.
The season began in the worst possible way it could, as 2 out of the 12 matches were abandoned, the first one being Bengal vs Baroda in Kolkata and the second one being Jharkhand vs Delhi in Jamshedpur, without a ball being bowled. However, the two teams that started doing the rounds among the media were Jammu & Kashmir and Maharashtra.
Jammu Kashmir was in the limelight because of the performances of their star player, Parvez Rasool, who was selected for the Indian team after bagging a contract with the disbanded Pune Warriors India in the recently concluded IPL season. The second team, Maharashtra were not the pre-tournament favourites but still caught media attention as they had a number of U19 players, the most famous of them being Vijay Zol. Vijay Zol was a part of the India U19 team that won the U19 World Cup in Australia and will be leading the reply to India’s title defence for the U19 World Cup in February-March 2014 to be held in the United Arab Emirates.
Compared to the previous seasons, this season was pre-destined to not be so boring. With the newly introduced 3-tier system and strict orders to prepare a pitch that encourages an outright result, the balance of the teams swung many times in the course of 114 matches. The result is here, 50% of the matches ended up in producing outright results and the most interesting thing is all the 4 quarter-finals and so far 1 out of 2 semis-finals produced outright results.
After a gruelling group stage of 108 matches; Karnataka, Punjab, Mumbai, Railways, Uttar Pradesh, Bengal, Maharashtra and Jammu & Kashmir emerged as the 8 teams that will contest for the title show-downs. However, the story of Bengal and Mumbai reaching the quarter-finals were very different from rest of the teams. Both the teams entered their last round-robin match needing to win it outright (after wasting 8 points in their previous encounters). Bengal was up against the might of Tamil Nadu in the opponent’s backyard and a pitch was prepared (worser than a paddy field) to bat Bengal out of the match. However, the touring party were prepared for it and they played as many as 6 bowlers (including 5 spinners) in the playing XI and wrecked of the Tamil Nadu might for 85 runs in the first innings before miraculously winning by 4 runs or rather a dramatic Tamil Nadu collapse. Mumbai, on the other hand rode on the spin of Iqbal Abdulla to win their encounter against zonal rivals, Gujarat to win by 27 runs and reach the quarters.
As the fixtures progressed further, it was payback time for a team named Railways whose captain was Murali Kartik in Kolkata while taking on the home team, Bengal. Earlier in the league stage at the Jamia Milia Islamia Ground in New Delhi, the Railways captain had used some unparliamentary words while talking to the players of Bengal and the home crowd decided to teach the opposition a lesson in the quarterfinals. The stands started to fill up from the very first day (even I missed a 4-day workshop in my college to witness the game) and what happened in Eden Gardens was never seen before. Incessent sledging and unwanted adjectives were used to greet the away side from all the three blocks (including the club house). The match swung in favour of both the sides before Bengal romped to win the match by 48 runs.
The story on the other side of India was totally different. Riding on Indulkar’s 82 and Suryakumar Yadav’s 102, Mumbai posted a daunting 402 on the board before Shardul Thakur ripped the Maharashtra batting apart to give Mumbai a 122 run lead. All was going well for Mumbai but the pace trio of Maharashtra (Samad Fallah, Anupam Sanklecha and Shrikant Mundhe) had other plans. They ripped apart the Mumbai batting in the second innings and set their batsmen an easy-yet-tricky chase of 252 to reach the semifinals. Mumbai captain, Zaheer Khan managed to provide early breakthroughs but Zol and Jadhav had other plans. They played the role of anchor-aggressor and ended Mumbai’s dream with a 8 wicket win in the quarters.
In the other two quarters, Jammu & Kashmir went down fighting valiantly to Punjab by 100 runs and Karnataka defeated Uttar Pradesh to record their 5th consecutive outright victory and 6th overall in the season to reach the semifinals.
As I pen down the article, Maharashtra had already defeated Bengal to reach the finals for the first time in 21 years and Karnataka has taken a lead of 147 runs over Punjab in Mohali before bad light has halted the proceedings just before lunch on the 4th day.
- Kedar Jadhav of Maharahtra is the leading run scorer in this Ranji season. He has scored 1074 runs from 10 matches at an impressive strike rate of 79.91 and a exaggerating average of 89.50
- Rishi Dhawan of Himachal Pradesh is the leading wicket taker in this Ranji season. He has taken 49 wickets this season in the 8 matches he played and has bowled with an impressive average of 20.30 with an economy of 2.89. Rishi has also taken 6 five-fors and 1 ten-for this season.
- Rohit Motwani, the 23 year-old wicket keeper of Maharshtra has 38 dismissals (34 cts + 4 s) this season from 10 outings. He has emerged as the best wicket-keeper in the domestic circuit this Ranji Trophy.
- Parvez Rasool of Jammu & Kashmir has scored 663 runs (avg. 51) and accounted for 27 wickets (avg. 31.40) this season. He is the best all-rounder in the Ranji Trophy 2013-14