The Ranji Trophy returns at the start of October and for many Indian cricket supporters, this is where the first class season really begins. Forget the Duleep Trophy as many of us are trying to do; this is a far more competitive competition with talented players looking to catch the eye of the national selectors.
The tournament was first held back in 1934 and was known at that stage as The Cricket Championship of India. Madras and Mysore contested the first game with the competition eventually won by Bombay. Now, obviously, referred to as Mumbai, this side is the most successful in the history of the Ranji Trophy with 41 overall victories.
The Ranji Trophy has a deep list of cricket fixtures. In 2017/18, the tournament will be contested by 28 sides with the first game taking place on October 6. The action continues for the first half of the Indian domestic season with the final scheduled to begin on December 29. View a full list of 2017 Ranji Trophy fixtures.
In 2016/17 we saw 28 teams placed into three groups but this year we have an even split between an extra section. We still have 28 squads taking part but the organisers have taken the logical step of setting up four groups with seven teams in each section.
The groups are decided by taking the average points from each of the last three seasons and then placing the sides into those four sections.
Here’s how those sections are split ahead of the 2017/18 campaign:
Jammu & Kashmir
Points are awarded in these group stages as follows:
1st Innings Lead in Drawn Match
1st innings Deficit in Drawn Match
Bonus Points (awarded for innings or 10 wicket victories)
Teams will play each other just once so at the end of the groups those teams will have played six matches each and we will then move on to the knockout stage.
The qualification process for 2017/18 is much more straightforward than it was twelve months ago when we had three sections. This year, the top two teams from each group will progress to the quarter finals which are scheduled to take place from the 7th to the 11th of December.
From there, the four winning teams make their way to the semi finals which will take place from December 17 to December 21. The winners from their will then make their way to the final itself which begins on December 29, 2017 and concludes on January 2, 2018.
2017 Ranji Trophy Teams
Here are the current squads for 2017/18 as provided by espncricinfo.com. These are correct at the time of writing but are subject to change in the event of injuries etc.
Andhra have a young captain in 23 year old Hanuma Vihari who has an impressive record in first class cricket with a batting average of 56.08 and a best of 263. Overall this is a very young side with no-one over the age of 30 and like most of these squads, there are names that will be unfamiliar, certainly outside of India.
In 2016/17, Andhra performed well in Group C, finishing in third place with three wins from their nine group matches and while they aren’t fancied to do well this year, that’s a decent record and suggests they could yet cause an upset in the same section.
Last season, Assam finished right at the bottom of Group B with just one win from their eight matches and they are not expected to improve on that record to any great degree. They now find themselves in a strong Group A for 2017/18 and are likely to struggle once again.
The squad is led by Gokul Sharma with Arun Karthik as Vice Captain and at least they have some experience in their ranks. It’s a competent side on paper and while there is scope to improve on that dismal performance 12 months ago, don’t expect Assam to get out of the groups.
Baroda finished second from bottom of the table in Group A last time out but when you look at the make up of their squad, they should be performing much better. Finally we have some international class names in a side which will be led by Irfan Pathan who heads up a very experienced side that also includes Munaf Patel and Yusuf Pathan.
It will be fascinating too to see if Hardik Pandya can take his international form into the domestic four day game when he is available. We may not see too much of him but when you look at this Baroda squad, they should be in for a much more positive season.
In 2016/17, Bengal finished fifth in Group A, missing out on a place in the next phase by just five points so clearly they have aims to go one better this time. Manoj Tiwary takes some responsibility as Captain with Ashok Dinda and Pragyan Ojha the other names that will be familiar to cricket fans outside of India.
Overall this is a young side and the key to a better season will lie in how they respond to a talented yet inconsistent skipper.
The vastly experienced Mohammad Kaif leads a side who finished second from bottom of Group C last year, level on points with the bottom side Tripura. Naturally this Chhattisgarh side will be looking for a more positive campaign but few are expecting them to progress beyond the groups.
Overall this is a very inexperienced squad save for the captain and 37 year old Vivek Naidu. There is some talent here but an improvement on that poor performance in 2016/17 is as much as they can hope for.
Delhi will be hoping that a squad with some of the best young talent in Indian cricket can improve on last season when they missed out on progressing to the knockouts by just one point. The side finished in fourth place in Group B and there is certainly scope to go one better in 2017/18.
At just 23, Unmukt Chand is one of the youngest captains in World cricket and his place as skipper is typical of the make up of this squad. Rishabh Pant, Mohit Sharma and Nitish Rana are included in a young side who will be looking to catch the eyes of national selectors and surely Delhi will make it out of the groups this time.
A mid table finish in Group C rounded off a respectable Ranji Trophy for Goa last year but they never really looked like nailing a place in the knockouts. Sagun Kamat leads an experienced squad of players who have never been under the selectors’ radar for international call ups and a similar campaign seems likely this time around.
After running through some ‘also rans’ we come on to last season’s winners and our reigning champions. In 2016/17, Gujarat finished second in Group A but from there they dominated, ultimately beating Mumbai by five wickets in the final.
Parthiv Patel was the hero that day – making 90 and 143 – and he is back to skipper the side for 2017/18. International call ups may play more of a part this time around in a squad that contains Jasprit Bumrah and Axar Patel but Gujarat should go deep into the competition once again.
This Haryana side made it through to the quarter finals a year ago before losing to Jharkhand in the first phase of the knockouts. They are led by Mohit Sharma and have a good quality side but would be happier if they kept Yuzvendra Chahal and didn’t lose the leg spinner to international duty.
Haryana should make it out of the groups once again but those two are key players. One player to watch this year will be the exciting 16 year old Ashok Sandhu.
Himachal were in Haryana’s group last year and finished in mid-table, just outside of the qualifying places. They could, and perhaps should have gone further so can they improve on that record in 2017/18?
Rishi Dhawan is an exciting Captain and he leads a side full of unfamiliar names but they continue to gain experience and might just scrape one of the qualifying slots this time around.
Having received a tough draw against Mumbai, Hyderabad were losing quarter finalists in 2016/17, eventually going down by a narrow 30 run margin. The knockout phase should be a minimum aim again this time but could this side go a step further?
Having played a handful of internationals in all three formats, Captain S Badrinath should be relatively familiar to all cricket fans. He’s 37 now but remains a key figure in an otherwise young and inexperienced team. Look out too for Akshath Reddy who is a consistent run scorer in first class cricket as Hyderabad seem set for the knockout phase at worst.
Jammu and Kashmir
They were third from bottom of group C twelve months ago and little is expected of Jammu and Kashmir this time around. Even the most ardent of neutral fans would need a good memory to recall Parvez Rasool who has played one ODI and one T20i for India but the 28 year old is a key all-rounder in this set up.
Captain for 2017/18 will be Mithun Manhas who, at 36, is typical of this squad of journeyman cricketers who form a decent unit that rarely looks like causing upsets.
This Jharkhand side made it all the way to the semi finals in 2016/17 before a heavy defeat to Gujarat halted their progress. It isn’t a side packed with star names so they ‘punched above their weight’ to some extent last year and will do well to come up with a repeat.
Their captain is Varun Aaron, who has 18 international appearances for India shared between tests and ODIs and they also include the talented but inconsistent Saurabh Tiwary. Both will be key men alongside ishank Jaggi, who made 129 in the first innings of that semi last season.
Second behind Jharkhand in Group B twelve months ago, Karnataka lost a very low scoring quarter final to Tamil Nadu by seven wickets. This is a side that has the capacity to be better this year with two key international players who are starting to be ignored by the selectors on a more regular basis.
Robin Uthappa and the skipper Vinay Kumar should see more game time although the availability of Karun Nair may be restricted. Despite that, expect Karnataka to progress beyond the groups once again.
2016/17 was a disappointing season for Kerala as they finished outside of the qualifying places in Group C. We’ve seen some good performances in the Indian Premier League from Sachin Baby and Basil Thampi while Sanju Samson once threatened to be a superstar of Indian Cricket and the obvious wicket keeping successor to MS Dhoni.
Consistency for those three is an issue and it’s a problem for the whole squad but they are young and can improve enough to sneak a qualifying spot this time around.
At the age of 39, captain Devendra Bundela certainly brings plenty of experience to this Madhya Pradesh squad but that may not be enough to help a team who finished in sixth place in Group A at the end of 2016/17.
Like all squads at this year’s Ranji Trophy there is some talent here with perhaps Harpreet Singh and Ishwar Pandey the most familiar names following their IPL exploits. They are key players but they, along with the skipper Bundela, have a tough job on their hands if Madhya Pradesh are going to threaten the qualifying slots.
Another mid-table side last year, Maharashtra finished in fifth place in Group B but have some cause to hope for an improvement in fortunes this time around. Much could depend on skipper Kedhar Jadhav however and supporters will be hoping that their captain can avoid international call ups.
Rahul Tripathi may be another man on the selectors’ radar after a decent IPL and it’s really up to those two men to perform if Maharashtra are to have any chance of progressing beyond the play offs.
They are the most successful team in the history of the Ranji Trophy and having reached the final 12 months ago, Mumbai were expecting to take another title. That defeat to Gujarat will have hurt and the side definitely has the capability to go one better this time.
It’s not a side that is packed with star names but they always seem to come together as a unit and raise their game. For 2017/18, Mumbai will be led by Aditya Tare and overall this is a young side that has enough talent to go deep into the knockouts once again.
Odisha may have been considered to be surprise qualifiers from Group B a year ago and they were subsequently outclassed by Gujarat in their quarter final. A repeat of 2016/17’s performance seems to be as much as this side can hope for as they possess a capable unit but one that’s lacking in any star quality.
Govinder Poddar leads this side and look out for 19 year old batsman Sandeep Pattnaik who debuted in this competition last year and made a top score of 123.
Punjab have only won the Ranji Trophy once and 2016/17 was a disappointing campaign as they finished outside of the qualifying slots. When you look at the squad for this year, surely they should progress to the knockouts this time around.
Captain Harbhajan Singh and Yurvraj Singh are unlikely to be troubled by international call ups and they are backed by competent players including Sandeep Sharma, Mandeep Singh, Siddarth Kaul and Manan Vohra. That’s a strong unit that really should perform better this time.
A year ago this Railways side finished at the very bottom of Group A and we shouldn’t expect much of an improvement this time around. A team of average cricketers led by Ranjit Mali is backed up by Karn Sharma and Anureet Singh who will be key to an improvement in 2017/18.
Railways will be looking to move up the table this year but don’t expect them to progress beyond the groups.
In 2016/17 they were second from bottom of Group B and Rajasthan are another side who will be realistically targeting an improvement rather than a genuine assault on the Ranji Trophy.
Their squad for this season is led by Pankaj Singh who played two tests for India and an ODI but there is a lack of international quality. However, it’s worth looking out for a couple of exciting youngsters, Mahipal Lomror and Kukna Ajay Singh who showed some promise in a struggling side twelve months ago.
This Saurashtra side contains some players who will be familiar to cricket fans outside of England but does that mean they can improve on their showing last season when they finished third from bottom of Group B?
Cheteshwar Pujara is clearly a key when he is available and a man who is back to his most prolific form. Backed up by Jaydev Unadkat and Sheldon Jackson, there is an outside chance of a tilt at the qualifying places.
A mid-table side in 2016/17, when you look at the make up of this Services squad you might feel that they overachieved to an extent. It’s another competent unit full of experienced cricketers that have yet to come to the attention of the national selectors.
For the new season Services will be led by Soumik Chattergee, a player with a very modest batting average in first class cricket that sums up the nature of this side. It’s a modest line up too but we should certainly look out for 22 year old Rahul Singh, who made his debut in the tournament last year and goes into this competition with a first class batting average above 60 and a highest score of 182.
Third place qualifiers from Group A, Tamil Nadu made it all the way to the semi final stages in 2016/17 before going down to Mumbai. A repeat could be a tough call this time around but the squad certainly has the quality to make it to the knockout phase once again.
Key players will include Dinesh Karthik who is by far the most familiar name in this squad both inside and outside of India while the most exciting member of the side will be the teenager Washington Sundar. The 18 year old made a big impact for the Rising Pune Supergiants in this year’s IPL with his attacking leg spin and it will be interesting to see if he can do the same at first class level.
They finished right at the bottom of Group C twelve months ago and the chief aim for Tripura in 2017/18 would be to improve on that position. They are skippered by Manisankar Murasingh, a young and decent all rounder while the experienced Yashpal Singh is another key player this season.
35 year old Yashpal averages over 48 in first class cricket with a highest score of 250.
Uttar Pradesh ended the 2016/17 Ranji Trophy campaign with 13 points in Group A – some way out of the play off places. However, when you look at the players in this squad there is a good portion of experience and international quality so perhaps they should be aiming much higher this season.
That quality starts with the skipper Suresh Raina who will be backed up by Praveen Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav and Piyush Chawla. Yadav’s availability may be limited but that’s a decent squad and one that has the potential to reach the knockouts.
They were mid-table in 2016/17 but Vidarbha were only two points away from the knockout slots so there could be potential to improve on that finish and make the quarter finals. Faiz Fazal is an experienced skipper and leads a talented young squad this season.
One player to watch is young seamer Lalit Yadav who took 30 Ranji Trophy wickets in 2016/17 from just seven matches.
History of the Ranji Trophy
The rise of cricket in India meant that a national competition was a logical step. Remember that back in 1934 when the tournament was first held, we had no 50 over cricket let alone T20 games so it was first class cricket or nothing. With teams having been established all over India, the need to get everything organised was the obvious next step.
That very first competition in 1934 was won by Bombay who immediately followed up with a second success the following year. The Ranji Trophy is one of only a few global events to have enjoyed an unbroken run so play continued throughout World War II and has been completed in every year since.
In total, 43 teams have played Ranji Trophy cricket. There are 28 on the current roster and added to that are 15 defunct sides including Western India, Northern Punjab, Holkar and North West Frontier Province. The most short lived side are Gwalior who played for just one season in 1943/44.
Currently, as we move in to 2017/18, Mumbai are the most successful side in the history of Ranji Trophy cricket but there are many years left in this competition so can their record be overtaken? It will be tough because, of the teams still playing in the tournament, Delhi are second in the overall wins list with just seven!
Records and Notable Moments in Ranji Trophy history
- Most Wins: Mumbai 41
- Highest Team Score: 944/6 declared by Hyderabad vs Andhra in 1993/94
- Lowest Team Score: 21 all out by Hyderabad vs Rajasthan in 2010
- Highest Career Aggregate in the Ranji Trophy: 10,143 by Wasim Jaffer
- Most centuries in Ranji career: 32 by Wasim Jaffer
- Highest Ranji Batting average: Vijay Merchant 98.35
- Most Ranji Wickets: 637: Rajinder Goel
- Highest Individual Score: 443* by B.B. Nimbalkar for Maharashtra v Kathiawar in 1948/49
- Best Bowling: Innings: 10/20 by Premangsu Chattergee for Bengal v Assam in 1956/57
- Bet Bowling: Match: 16/99 by Anil Kumble for Karnataka v Kerala in 1994/95
Ranji Trophy Facts
- While the Ranji Trophy is the most famous cricket competition in India, it isn’t actually the oldest. The Bombay Quadrangular was a tournament based on religious lines that continued in various forms until it was scrapped by the BCCI in 1946.
- The competition is named after Ranjitsinhji, ruler of the state of Nawanagar and a great cricketer who played 15 tests for England. Despite featuring exclusively for his adopted country, India held Ranji in such high regard that they named this trophy after him.
- Of the 13 games played in the first season of Ranji Trophy, 3 ended in draws. The organisers had brought in a ruling allowing points to be awarded for first innings leads and this law carries through to the present day.
- In over 80 years of Ranji Trophy cricket we have only ever seen one tie. It came in the 1945/46 season in a semi final match between Baroda and Southern Punjab and was ultimately decided with the toss of a coin which Baroda won.