New Ranji Format to feature four teams in eight elite clusters

The Ranji Trophy could have a new format, with the pandemic and limited window dictating changes to the hitherto established arrangement. The format would also have mostly neutral venues but some teams could end up playing at home. The start of the competition is likely to be between February 13 and 17.

It seems likely that there are two plans on the table for the consideration of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). The tournament could kick off at nine different centers with groupings based on the Elite and Plate teams.

As per one plan, the finalists will have a chance to play a maximum of eight matches, including three Super League games. The least performing sides – which could be 24 of them – could end their campaign after just three matches. In another plan, the two most successful states can get up to a maximum of seven games with only three for the 16 sides at the other extreme.

The 32 Elite teams would be divided into eight groups of four sides and the Plate Group will remain a six-team affair. The top side from each Elite group progresses to the next stage which could be a Super League among the eight toppers, who would be divided into two further clusters of four sides each. From the Super League, two sides from each cluster qualify for the semifinals and finally the final, after playing thee further league matches each in their respective groups in the second stage.

Alternately, the BCCI is also contemplating having two Elite sides from a group qualifying for the last 16, the pre-quarterfinals stage, from where the knockouts would begin. The Plate teams, unlike before, will not have a shot at the title. They will have five league games each and there ends their campaign with an incentive of promotion to the Elite Division for two teams next year.

It has also been suggested that nine identified cities will get to host their state sides, the thinking here is to limit the travel requirements of as many teams as possible. That way, these sides may not have to take the flight and expose themselves to the vulnerability of health risk, thus curtailing the chances of Covid infection.

The BCCI officials, including secretary Jay Shah, recently said the BCCI will hold the Ranji Trophy in two phases on either side of the IPL. The Board and State officials confirm the plans under consideration and the schedule is expected to be made public on Monday (January 31).