FAQs – Everything about the 2021-22 Ranji Trophy

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India’s premier first-class competition returns – in two phases, split by the IPL – after a year’s gap, and features Pujara and Rahane on the first day itself

The Ranji Trophy will return to India’s domestic calendar after a year’s gap, because of the Covid-19 situation in the country over the past two years. Here’s a ready reckoner.

When does the tournament begin? And why is it in two phases?
The 2021-22 Ranji Trophy will be held in two phases, with the IPL in between. The first phase, which consists of league matches and one pre-quarter-final, starts on February 17 and ends on March 15. The IPL is expected to start on March 27. Before the Ranji pre-quarter-final, there will be three rounds of matches held: the first from February 17 to 20, then February 24 to 27, and finally, from March 3 to 6. The second phase, of the knockouts, is likely to begin on May 30 – after the IPL has concluded – and run up to June 26.
Who are the big-ticket players in the mix? And who are missing?
Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane will turn out for Saurashtra and Mumbai, respectively. In fact, they will be up against each other on the very first day of the tournament, in Ahmedabad.

Also available for their respective sides will be Hanuma Vihari (Hyderabad), Navdeep Saini and Nitish Rana (Delhi), Mayank Agarwal and Prasidh Krishna (Karnataka), Sreesanth (Kerala), Prithvi Shaw (Mumbai), Jaydev Unadkat (Saurashtra), Krunal Pandya (Baroda), Umesh Yadav (Vidarbha) and Vijay Shankar (Tamil Nadu).

Among players who are expected to be free and available in that window, Hardik Pandya, Ishant Sharma and Wriddhiman Saha have all opted out. Pandya will be continuing his rehabilitation for a long-standing back injury and focus on his comeback in white-ball cricket, Saha and Ishant have made themselves unavailable.
Kerala’s Robin Uthappa and Sanju Samson will also be absent. Uthappa is recovering from a hamstring injury, while Samson is undergoing rehabilitation at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru.

What happened in the last Ranji Trophy?
The last time the tournament was conducted was during the 2019-20 season, when Saurashtra won the final against Bengal. But the Ranji Trophy had to be shelved during the following season because of pandemic. It was the first time the tournament, India’s premier first-class competition, had not featured in the calendar since its inception in the 1934-35 season.

How many teams are participating? And what’s the format for the league phase?
A total of 38 teams will be participating this season, and they have been divided into nine groups: eight Elite and one Plate. While the Elite groups have four teams each, the Plate Group has six sides in it.

A total of 57 matches will be played in the league phase, as each team plays three matches. While the Elite teams face all other sides in their group once, the Plate teams will play only against three sides in their group. That will be followed by the pre-quarter-final and the knockouts: the quarter-finals, the semi-finals and the final. That’s a total of 65 matches.

What is the points structure?
ESPNcricinfo has learnt that the ranking order of the groups will be decided by points. Should teams be level on points, then the number of outright wins becomes the deciding factor. If it’s still not conclusive, the quotient rule comes into play. This will be determined by dividing the team’s batting average by their bowling average.

How will the pre-quarter-final and quarter-finals play out?
Of the eight Elite-Group toppers, the seven with the best numbers qualify directly for the quarter-finals. For the final quarter-finalist, the Elite-group topper with the fewest points gets into a pre-quarter-final with the Plate-group topper. The pre-quarter-final will be played just after the league phase, and will end before the start of the IPL.

Where will the Ranji matches be played?
The Elite matches will all be held across eight states, all neutral to the teams in action. Rajkot, Cuttack, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Thiruvananthapuram, Thumba, Delhi, Rohtak, Gurugram, Sultanpur and Guwahati will be the cities where matches will be played. All the Plate matches will be conducted in Kolkata. The venue for the pre-quarter-final and the knockouts will be decided later.

Himanshu Agrawal is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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