Ranji Trophy: Back to the grind in domestic cricket

The Ranji Trophy, this year, is being held in two phases – the league stage was held in February and March, and the knockouts in June. The players, though, a little rusty from the long break are relishing the challenge.

Return to action: Madhya Pradesh’s Rajat Patidar in action against Kerala during a Ranji Trophy match at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot in March. The knockout stages of the tournament will be now held in Berngaluru.   -  VIJAY SONEJI

Surendra Bhave – a former first-class cricketer, a national selector, and a distinguished coach – can’t recall when the Ranji Trophy was ever played in June. But this season, circumstances have forced the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to conduct it in two phases – the league stage was held in February and March, and the knockouts in June, a few days after the end of the Indian Premier League.

Bhave, currently the coach of Punjab, admits that it will be challenging to get the boys back into the groove. “We can’t complain because at least we are playing the game in such tough times. I would rather see it as a positive because the successful conduct of the tournament in June will give you an additional window,” he states.

Punjab will take on Madhya Pradesh in the quarterfinals at ground number three in Alur. The other quarterfinalists are Mumbai, Uttarakhand, Bengal, Jharkhand, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh. While 12 players from Punjab were part of the IPL, there were quite a few who have had no engagements over the last couple of months. Bhave admits that this “long gap” is indeed a bit of an issue. “It was unavoidable due to the IPL. The non-IPL players had continued training. They would meet twice or thrice, and we tried providing them with extra training and conducting skill camps,” Bhave informs.

READ: Saha unwilling to play Ranji knockouts

“Those busy with the IPL are going to have a huge task, they have been playing white-ball cricket for a long time, and now getting them back to the red-ball is a challenge.”

Most teams are reaching Bengaluru at least 10 days before the quarterfinals to get acclimatised to the conditions and play a few practice games. “You go and practice in those conditions where the matches will be held and the players will also get a chance to switch from white-ball to red-ball ahead of the quarterfinals,” Bhave says.

Ready for the battle: “We have been training under the guidance of our trainer since the league stage got over. We are reaching Bengaluru early to play games against Karnataka and Uttarakhand. It is an ideal preparation,” says Bengal batter Manoj Tiwary.   -  The Hindu

 

Bengaluru has witnessed incessant rains over the last few weeks, and there are predictions of more showers during the tournament. The Karnataka State Cricket Association has state-of-the-art facilities and a good drainage system, and the organisers are confident of pulling things off smoothly.

The eight teams, however, are not thinking too much about the weather. Their primary focus is to get the house in order and quickly shift from white ball to red-ball cricket. A few Bengal players are part of the IPL, and they will be late in joining their state colleagues, who have been training regularly in Kolkata over the last few weeks under coach Arun Lal.

 

Ranji Trophy Quarterfinals ( June 6-10)

  • Bengal vs Jharkhand - Just Cricket Academy Ground, Bengaluru
  • Mumbai vs Uttarakhand - KSCA Cricket Ground (2), Alur
  • Karnataka vs Uttar Pradesh - KSCA Cricket Ground, Alur
  • Punjab vs Madhya Pradesh - KSCA Cricket Ground (3), Alur

 

“The two-and-a-half months break is a challenge. Last time, the tournament was held in 2020 and we had reached the final and there are no talks of approaching the knockout stage as a new tournament,” Manoj Tiwary, Bengal’s batting mainstay, insists. “We have been doing fitness training since the league stage got over. From last week or so, we have started nets sessions. We are reaching Bengaluru early to play games against Karnataka and Uttarakhand. It is ideal preparation. We hope that all the hard work that we have put in, in this long break helps us,” Tiwary says.

Tiwary, who is now a minister of state in the West Bengal government, will be available for the entire knockout rounds, even though there are question marks over the availability of Mohammed Shami and Wriddhiman Saha, who has indicated that he may not play for Bengal again.

“As a team, we must perform to the best of our abilities — just like we did in the league stage. We got three outright wins and most importantly, the youngsters played their roles to help the team win. We have been in the final for the last few years, but we have not been able to bring the trophy home. But this time, we are all set. We would have ideally loved to carry on the momentum, but you cannot control the uncontrollable,” Tiwary says.

Though in unchartered territory with the long gap between the group and the knockout stages eating away the momentum, the players are not complaining. They see it as a challenge and opportunity. The attraction of first-class cricket may have waned for most cricket lovers, but the players are ready to tackle the heat and the other curve balls that come their way. Let the games begin.

For more updates, follow Sportstar on :