The 2013-14 Ranji Trophy quarterfinal draw will be remembered for years. Why? Incompetence covers it.

The Ranji Trophy quarterfinal draw, conducted on Thursday, evoked as many peals of laughter as expressions of disgust. In a strange way, it seemed dystopian. Without even accusing the BCCI of harbouring any loyalties towards a particular team, it’s tough to accept the pairings.

Mumbai has sneaked through to the quarterfinals, in a way that only it could have contrived to succeed. Gujarat, chasing 175, collapsed from 135 for four to 147 all out. One would think that such a dramatic win to seal a place in the last eight should be rewarding enough. But no, Maharashtra was drawn to play Mumbai in the quarterfinals with the latter being host at Wankhede Stadium next week.

Now, for the uninitiated, Maharashtra topped group C, a pool that only provides two quarterfinalists on account of its relative weakness. Not to suggest that the group topper would prove to be a willing opponent. But for a team that finished only third in group A to get a ‘favourable’ draw is unsettling.

Moreover, Karnataka—the side that scored the highest points (38) in the preliminary stage—finds itself placed against Uttar Pradesh (second in group B). Why the indignation, you may ask? Well, this is a drastic departure from the rules that governed the quarterfinal placings last season.

In the 2012-13 campaign, the pool A and B toppers got to play against the quarterfinalists from group C. The rest of the last-eight lineup was drawn up by placing the second team in group A against the third from group B and vice-versa. This system placed a serious value on a side’s performance in the preliminary stage.

Thankfully, the BCCI has cared to offer an explanation for its peculiar draw conducted behind closed-doors. “We drew lots after the defending champion Mumbai was given the top billing, Punjab (last year’s semifinalist) the No. 2 position and Karnataka (maximum points in the league) the No. 5 position,” said Prof. Ratnakar Shetty, General Manager, Game Development, BCCI.

Now, Arsenal fans will tell you that the professor knows best but I doubt anyone could vouch for this professor with similar passion. For this draw has also created a pairing that is certainly unprecedented.

Bengal will renew the acrimony it shares with Railways at the Eden Gardens from January 8. The hostility came to life earlier this season when the latter’s skipper Murali Kartik ‘Mankad-ed’ Sandipan Das. But forget that controversy. Did you see what happened there? Teams from the same pool will meet again in the quarters! Woof!

Certainly, the BCCI could have avoided this anomaly. Much could be learnt from international football, among other sports, here. To avoid such and other similarly ridiculous possibilities, UEFA and FIFA have put restrictions in place to ensure rationality.

Never do teams in the Champions League and World Cup meet in the first knockout stage after the group rounds. Certainly, seedings are assigned to teams on previous years’ performances but only for the group stages. For the following rounds, any such rankings are attached to reflect performance at the round-robin level.

This obscure draw process has only caused incredulity. If you were to be reminded of other incidents when the BCCI has not covered itself in glory, you could be made to think that something sinister is afoot. Perhaps, there’s nothing more to this than incompetence. One certainly hopes so.

But wait, this is not over yet. The fourth quarterfinal has not been mentioned. Punjab (second in group A) will meet Jammu and Kashmir (second in group C) in Baroda. Hmm…