The countdown has begun for the 2012-13 Ranji Trophy knock-out. Over the next three weeks, seven knock-out matches will be played starting with the five-day quarterfinals at four cities from Sunday (January 6) at Mumbai (Mumbai v Baroda), Rajkot (Saurashtra v Karnataka), Jamshedpur (Jharkhand and Punjab) and Indore (Uttar Pradesh and Services). The final winner, to be known by the end of this month, will immediately get to field its full team in the Zal Irani Cup match against the Rest of India.

Coveted trophy

The winner will take home a prize money of Rs. 2 crore, the runner-up Rs. 1 crore and the losing semifinalists Rs. 50 lakh each. For obvious reasons teams covet the Ranji Trophy mainly because it provides the players a platform to show their mettle in a major competition.

Recent examples of players who excelled in the Ranji Trophy are Saurashtra’s Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravindra Jadeja, Delhi seamer Parvinder Awana and Bengal seamers Ashoke Dinda and Shami Ahmed.

They made maximum use of the opportunities the tournament offered and got the nod from the national selectors. Medium-pacer and a competent batsman Bhuvneshwar Kumar is the latest among the number of players, who by his sheer perseverance and weight of performances was selected for the ongoing limited-overs series against Pakistan.

Ultimate aim

Pessimistic voices and arm-chair critics have run down the BCCI’s domestic tournaments.

Thankfully the majority — and this includes many cricketers who have played for India across formats of the game — feel that the ultimate aim of the budding youngster is to excel in the Irani Cup, Duleep Trophy and Ranji Trophy — all prestigious first class tournaments that develop a player for Test cricket and other senior tournaments organised by the BCCI.

A case in point is the recent league matches played with intensity between Karnataka and Maharashtra at Pune, Mumbai and Madhya Pradesh at Indore, Jharkhand and Services at Delhi, Saurashtra and Madhya Pradesh at Rajkot, Andhra and Kerala at Kadapa and between Delhi and Vidarbha at Nagpur.

Karnataka won the match and qualified for the quarter-finals with only ten balls of the mandatory bowled remaining to be bowled.

The India ‘A’ team for the warm up match against England has successful players of this season like Jalaj Saxena, Ishwar Pandey, Rishi Dhawan, Paras Dogra, Mohit Sharma, Parvez Rasool and consistent players Robin Bist, Kedar Jadhav, Ashok Menaria, Rohit Motwani and Akshay Darekar.

The last season’s quarterfinalists were, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Karnataka, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

This time strong teams like Delhi, Tamil Nadu and Bengal do not figure in the knock-out and the winner of the tournament in the last two seasons, Rajasthan have failed to advance.

After mediocre showing in the last few years Punjab has returned to the forefront in style and newcomers in Jharkhand and Services should be delighted with the progress they have made.

It’s after playing hard and focused cricket over a period of 96 sessions and 32 days that these teams of made the cut.

Keywords: Ranji Trophy

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