Ranji Trophy 2018-19: Far from the best season

While the unavailability of key players affected the top teams, the presence of new teams with little cricket culture ensured that professionals made a mockery of the numbers.

The Vidarbha players celebrate after defeating Saurashtra in the Ranji Trophy final against Saurashtra on Thursday.   -  PTI

Four groups. 37 teams. 160 matches.

The 85th edition of the Ranji Trophy, which culminated with Vidarbha proving that its maiden title in 2017-18 was far from a fluke as it defending it against a spirited Saurashtra, was certainly the biggest in terms of numbers. But in terms of quality, it was far from being the best so far.

As much as the top teams were affected due to the unavailability of key players due to the tournament clashing with India A’s tour to New Zealand and the Emerging Asia Cup, the introduction of nine teams in an additional pool made it worse.

Thanks to a diktat by the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA), the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had to include nine additional teams – six from the north-east besides Bihar, Uttarakhand and Puducherry – in the premier first-class tournament. With little local cricket culture in a majority of the newbies, especially in the neglected north-east, the professionals made a mockery of the numbers as well as the stature of first-class cricket.

Read: Sarwate bowls defending champion to title

Most of the Plate Group matches barely lasted two days, with many locals barely being good enough with the basics of the game. As a result, the professionals – either veterans who want to prolong their careers or even youngsters in big states who have either failed to make the cut into the their respective senior team or haven’t established themselves at first-class cricket – minted runs and wickets without little trouble. No wonder then that five of the top-10 batsmen and bowlers came from the Plate Group.

The BCCI, one feels, has to revisit whether to persist with the Plate Group as part of the Ranji Trophy. No doubt the neglected regions should get opportunities, but certainly not at the cost of diluting the Ranji Trophy. Perhaps the BCCI should look at letting the newbies compete against themselves in a three-day tournament – without minimum professionals – to get themselves ready for the rigours of the big-ticket cricket.

As a fallout of the CoA’s insistence on the Plate Group winner being a must in the knockouts, the top-18 teams – divided in two groups – competed together for the top five slots in the quarterfinals. Such was the danger of the system, four from Group A made the cut while only Kerala from Group B qualified for the knockouts.

Also, umpiring standards remained as dicey as they have been in the recent past, but the Ranji Trophy did throw many positives. Barring Karnataka, the other three semifinalists were far from being traditionally dominant teams. That augurs well for the future of the game, with many promising youngsters – in terms of age and experience – impressing with their game.

Batting stats - Top 10 batsmen

BatsmanTeamRunsMatchesInningsNot outsHighest scoreAverageStrike rateHundredsFifties
MilindSikkim1,331814326112191.6664
Wasim JafferVidarbha1,0371115020669.1359.2542
Rinku SinghUttar Pradesh95310134163*105.8972.8043
P. K. PanchalGujarat898917214159.8770.4845
Punit BishtMeghalaya892812234389.2085.1124
Yogesh NagarMeghalaya865812216686.5072.1443
A. R. EaswaranBengal8616112201*95.6759.3333
Yashpal SinghManipur8608154156*78.1861.4743
Sheldon JacksonSaurashtra8541121314747.4457.1627
Taruwar KohliMizoram826816415668.8352.2425

 

Bowling stats - Top 10 bowlers

BowlerTeamWicketsMatchesInningsOversRunsAverageStrike rateEconomy rateBest bowlingFive-wicket hauls
Ashutosh AmanBihar68814231.34416.4820.421.98/519
D. A. JadejaSaurashtra5911195011,60327.1650.943.197/555
A. A. SarvateVidarbha5511194141,08219.6745.162.616/436
Gurinder SinghMeghalaya53814354.189716.9240.092.536/415
Ishwar ChaudharySikkim51813268.21,05020.5831.563.917/515
Saurabh KumarUttar Pradesh511019371.390517.7443.702.437/325
T. M. HaqRajasthan511020343.294518.5240.392.756/422
A. V. ChoudharyRajasthan49918281.372114.7134.462.565/117
Pankaj SinghPuducherry45912177.14199.3123.622.367/213
D. DhapolaUttarakhand45914268.269815.5135.772.607/506