CHENNAI: THE only thing that is constant is change. That sentence couldn’t be truer when it comes to the Ranji Trophy, which is set for another change the upcoming season. The BCCI conclave held in Mumbai on Friday saw the teams advocate for tweaks in knockout stages. The suggested changes involves Plate League teams being kept away from qualifying for knockouts by retaining the promotion and relegation concept. The changes, if implemented, won’t be entirely surprising given the gulf in quality between Elite and Plate teams.
The teams also questioned the quality of umpires for the nth time, with the possibility of introducing DRS for televised games also discussed. But it remains a far-fetched idea just like the concept of doing away with the toss, suggested by Kerala coach Dav Whatmore. The England Cricket Board has already removed toss in County Championships since 2016, with the visiting side deciding who will bat first. Sources revealed that DRS may be used for knockouts, but a decision on this is likely to be arrived only at a later stage.
Instead of doing away with the toss, most captains and coaches were in favour of neutral curators overseeing the preparation of pitches, which was done for the knockout stages last season.
“The concept of toss need not come in if the quality of pitches are good. It is not going to make a difference but having a neutral curator assisting the local ones to ensure a sporting wicket can be more healthy for the competition. Barring Wayanad, all knockout pitches last season were sporting,” a coach of a Ranji side, that made it to the knockouts, told this newspaper.
The Elite captains and coaches have also told BCCI to keep the Plate teams away from knockouts. Last season, Uttarakhand, by virtue of finishing as Plate League toppers, made it to the quarterfinals, losing to Vidarbha. For the next season, this may undergo a change with one more team joining from the Elite teams, allowing Plate teams only the luxury of promotion.
“Last season, five teams (based on points) from Group A and B combined made it to quarters. It was harsh given that conditions were varying. So this season, three each from Group A and B and two from Group C may make it to the quarterfinals, which will ensure the best teams play in the knockouts. Two or three Plate teams can be promoted and the same number be relegated from Group C,” a board official said.
Zonal teams for Duleep?
The Duleep Trophy may also go back to its zonal format. The BCCI, beginning with the 2016-17 season, scrapped the six-decade-old concept of five zones — North, South, West, East and Central featuring in the tournament and made it a three-team event comprising of India Red, India Blue and India Green played with pink balls under lights.
While it will continue to be one, there is a belief that going back to the zonal system will make the tournament more meaningful.