CHENNAI: Despite changing it thrice in the past three seasons, Ranji Trophy format remains a bone of contention for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). The format of the knockout games was discussed extensively during the captains and coaches conclave in Mumbai on Friday. Even if the house was divided, the home-and-away format for the knockouts is likely to be retained.
The BCCI hosted a record 2,024 domestic games this season. Like every year, the conclave was held to take stock of the season, and seek feedback from various stakeholders to make domestic cricket more competitive. A range of topics were discussed and the format of Ranji knockouts was one of them.
The BCCI opted for neutral venues for the 2016-17 Ranji Trophy season only to revert to home-and-away format the next season. The knockouts that season were played at neutral venues. In its bid to attract the local crowd, the board then went for the home-and-away format for the knockouts with neutral curators for the 2018-19 season. Going by the format, one of the two teams featuring in knockouts (quarters, semis and final) played its respective matches on home turf.
Vidarbha played their quarterfinal against Uttarakhand in Nagpur. Uttar Pradesh hosted Saurashtra in Lucknow while Karnataka played Rajasthan in Bengaluru in other quarterfinals. Kerala played their quarterfinal against Gujarat in Wayanad and hosted eventual champions Vidarbha at the same venue for the semifinal. The second semifinal was played between Karnataka and Saurashtra in Bengaluru, which the latter won.
Even as other knockout matches were organised smoothly, the Wayanad pitch drew criticism from visiting players. That quarterfinal in Wayanad finished inside three days, with Gujarat captain Parthiv Patel mincing no words vis-a-vis its quality. The semifinal featuring hosts Kerala and Vidarbha finished inside two days, Vidarbha winning the match by an innings and 11 runs.
“Wayanad pitch was in focus. Format of the knockouts was also discussed. It remains to be seen what the board decides but there was a group suggesting neutral venues for the knockouts to nullify home advantage,” a Ranji captain, who attended the conclave, said.
BCCI sources said that the format is unlikely to be changed next season. The suggestion will now be forwarded to the technical committee for approval. It will also require the general body’s ratification before it is being implemented.