The winner of the ‘Elite League’ will receive the Raja of Palayampatti Shield.

A fresh edition of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association’s (TNCA) first division league, in a new format, will begin here on Friday.

The 12 teams of the league have been split into two groups of six teams each. The ‘A’ zone comprises holder Jolly Rovers, Globe Trotters, Aruna, Young Stars, UFCC (T. Nagar) and IOB. The ‘B’ zone will consist of last season’s runner-up Vijay, Alwarpet, Southern Railway Institute, India Pistons, AG’s Office, and Grand Slam.

The top three sides from each group will progress to the league-cum-knock-out phase. The teams which finish among the top four (from a pool of six) in the league will go through to the semifinals. The winner of this ‘Elite League’ will receive the Raja of Palayampatti Shield.

The bottom three sides from each of the first group (from 12 sides) will play a league-cum-knock-out ‘Plate’ tournament for the S.R. Jagannathan Trophy.

The idea behind the new format is make the tournament more competitive. There is also a belief that the Elite League would result in a greater number of quality matches between the leading sides. And that the bottom six teams would still have something to play for.

The first set of matches will feature five rounds (all three-day matches). The other major feature of this year is the permission granted to every team to recruit two ‘outstation’ professionals. This, it is felt, could add greater depth to the field.

Aruna CC and Southern Railway Institute are the two promoted teams. The SSN College ground — the home for Young Stars — has been included in the list of venues for the league.

A look at the sides suggests that there has been a move to strengthen UFCC (T. Nagar). S. Badrinath and Hemang Badani, both former India cricketers, will be turning out for the club this season.

Much focus will be on the nature of the tracks. The quality of surfaces will play a key role in determining the kind of cricketers produced by the State.

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