Ranji Trophy: Race wide open for most quarterfinal spots

Among teams from Groups A and B, only two teams — Gujarat and Saurashtra — have already booked their spots ahead of the final league round.

Gujarat leads the points table (for Groups A and B combined) with 29 points.   -  K. V. S. Giri

Mumbai has won the Ranji Trophy 41 times. To make it 42, it will have to wait until next year at least.

Although there is still a round of matches to go, it is safe to say Mumbai will not make it to the quarterfinals this season. That is because Mumbai failed in its desperate bid to force a win against Saurashtra on Friday in Rajkot. Only on February 15, when the matches in the last round conclude, would we know the final list of the quarterfinalists.

Saurashtra and Gujarat have already done booked their places in the last eight, with another game in hand.

The top five teams, out of the 18 from the top tier, combining Groups A and B, will reach the quarterfinals. Going into the final round, Gujarat is leading the table with 29 points, followed by Saurashtra on 28. The race for the remaining three spots is wide open, though. Andhra, which is placed third currently with 27 points, looks the best-placed to claim one of those berths. Even if it loses its away game to Gujarat, it will still have chances to go through.

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Bengal (26 points), Karnataka (25) and Punjab (24) are better placed than some other teams. Uttar Pradesh (20), Tamil Nadu (19), defending champion Vidarbha (18) and Delhi (18) will not just have to win their matches but need favourable results from other matches.

Forgettable season for Kerala

Kerala, which qualified for the knockout stages for the last two seasons, is one team that could afford to follow the final round of matches with total disinterest. It is already relegated to Group C next season, having drawn its last match with Vidarbha at Nagpur, where inclement weather made even the completion of the first innings impossible.

One more team will join Kerala from Groups A and B. It could either be Hyderabad, which is lying last with six points, or Madhya Pradesh (11 points).

From Group C, one team will be relegated to the Plate Division. It will be either Uttarakhand (two points) or Tripura (six).

Two teams from the group will make the quarterfinals. Jammu & Kashmir (39 points), Odisha (35), Services (33), Haryana (30) and Maharashtra (28) all could afford to hope.

From the Plate Group, only one team will advance to the quarterfinals. Goa (43 points), Puducherry (41) and Chandigarh (36) are the contenders. It would indeed be interesting to follow the final round of matches in the preliminary league of India’s premier domestic tournament, starting on February 12. Of the 18 matches across groups, quite a few will be keenly followed by cricket fans across the country.

Elite Groups A and B - top 10 (ahead of the ninth round of matches)

1. Gujarat - 29 points (qualified)

2. Saurashtra - 28 points (qualified)

3. Andhra - 27 points

4. Bengal - 26 points

5. Karnataka - 25 points

6. Punjab - 24 points

7. Uttar Pradesh - 20 points

8. Tamil Nadu - 19 points

9. Vidarbha - 18 points

10. Delhi - 18 points.

Elite Group C (top five)

1. J&K - 39 points

2. Odisha - 35 points

3. Services - 33 points

4. Haryana - 30 points

5. Maharashtra - 28 points.

Plate Group (top five)

1. Goa - 43 points

2. Puducherry - 41 points

3. Chandigarh - 36 points

4. Meghalaya - 27 points

5. Bihar - 27 points.


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