When BCCI re-introduced the new Elite and Plate system to make Ranji Trophy more competitive and relevant, it made the process more complicated for Elite Group A and B. While two teams would directly qualify for the quarter-finals from Group C, one plate team will find a place in the QFs.
When Round 6 ended on Dec 17, it was a note-worthy vantage point to look at India’s premier domestic competition. Tripura and Services secured bonus point wins to stir the pot in the plate group and then Saurashtra’s win over Maharashtra put them on 25 points to make the qualification scenario for the Elite Group A and B, from which five teams will combinedly qualify for the knock-outs, a fascinating affair. More than that, after a long time, as many as 10 teams were in the contention from the first two groups until the last round - something that kept Ranji Trophy's excitement going. Now, as the eighth round is starting tomorrow, we look at various permutations and combinations crucial for team's chances to find a berth in the top eight of the league.
Elite Group A & B
While Mumbai’s exit was one of the shocking stories of the season, thus putting a halt to the decades of hegemony on the Indian cricketing circuit, their former coach Chandrakant Pandit was at the forefront of Vidarbha leading the pack this season, holding a chance to secure their second consecutive title. So, we will analyse the team’s chances to secure a berth in the Quarter-Finals, ignoring the teams who are out of contention viz. Hyderabad, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Mumbai, Andhra, Maharashtra, Railways, and Chhattisgarh.
The defending champions, now with 27 points, will play Saurashtra and a win will put them in the QFs as the group leaders while a first-innings lead will also help them qualify for the final eight. However, if Saurashtra
With one point behind table-toppers Vidarbha, eight-time Ranji champions Karnataka’s situation is pretty much similar as Vidarbha. If their new captain Manish Pandey can lead them to an outright win or a three-point draw against Baroda, they will secure a berth in the QFs. If either of Bengal or Himachal fail in their pursuit of securing out-right wins, then Karnataka will go through even by securing only one point. On the other hand, Bengal, Himachal, and Madhya Pradesh’s victory will put Karnataka at a spot of bother who will otherwise pray Saurashtra to secure less than three points against Vidarbha.
Although the 2016-17 champions find themselves at the third place on the table, their case is a more precarious one as they have already played all their league games by the last round. With 26 points, they are levelled with Saurashtra, two points higher than Madhya Pradesh, four points more than Himachal Pradesh and Bengal, six points more than other three teams in contention - Punjab, Baroda, and Kerala. So, potentially three teams in the form of MP, HP, and Saurashtra, and Bengal can go above them, Baroda and Punjab can secure exact same points. So, Gujarat players will have to wait and scroll through the proceedings of the other matches.
The equation is simple for Saurashtra as a win will help them find a place in the top eight of the tournament. If they can get three points against Vidarbha, they will still enter the quarter-finals, unless Bengal and HP secure a bonus-point victory and Madhya Pradesh secure an outright win. A one-point match can still help them enter the quarters unless MP, Bengal, and Himachal secure outright wins, or Kerala, Baroda, and Punjab secure victories with bonus points each as the last two have a better NRR. Even if they lose the game, they can still qualify if all the teams below them in the qualification race lose their game outright.
Same goes for Madhya Pradesh as far as winning is concerned. If they can beat Andhra Pradesh outright, they will directly secure a place in the top eight. However, a three-point lead will see them through if Bengal or HP fail to secure an outright win. Even though Bengal and HP win outright, and Saurashtra will need Baroda not to win with a bonus point and Saurashtra shouldn’t secure anything more than one point as well. Any result other than these two - win or a one-point draw - will mean MP need to be reliant on other results to go their way. Naman Ojha-led outfit will want all the teams below them in the qualification race to end in a draw with Himachal failing to gain the first innings lead in their game against Kerala.
Although an outright win might well prove to be enough, HP will seek a bonus point win to confirm their qualification and not being dependent on other results to go their way. A draw with three points can still help them qualify, but a lot of permutation and combination will come on their way. In that case, Himachal will want Andhra to beat Madhya Pradesh, Punjab to beat Bengal, and Baroda to topple Karnataka. On a slightly flexible note, Himachal can afford to see MP gain one point, but have lower NRR, while wanting the other two matches to end in a draw with Punjab restricting Bengal from taking the first-innings lead.
Here is a complicated scenario. Bengal
Kerala, with 20 points, are at a very precarious stage in the tournament as they will have to be reliant on other results even though they can secure a bonus point victory. A bonus point win will take the team to 27 points, which means they will want Karnataka to take first innings lead against Baroda. It will give them a chance as NRR will come into effect.
Punjab and Baroda
Their chance of qualifying for the knock-outs is as less as Australia’s chances of winning the Sydney Test. Although they have 20 points, exactly same points as Kerala and Bengal, they have one lesser number of outright victories, which may haunt them. For consolation though they have to put their best foot forward and secure an innings or 10-wicket victory.
Elite Group C
Elite Group C threw an interesting dynamics after Tripura pulled off a miraculous draw against Jharkhand in their last encounter which means the latter now have to fight it out to join Rajasthan in the quarter-final as the second team from the Group C. With one spot remaining to be filled from the group, Uttar Pradesh are only other team who have a chance to dethrone Jharkhand and seal a place in the final 8 of the tournament. While Uttar Pradesh, with 38 points,
If Uttar Pradesh
Jharkhand will now wish UP to lose outright or at best secure a one-point draw, which means they will get to 39 points maximum, and then, a bonus point win against J & K will help them reach 40 points and enter the QFs. On the other hand, if Assam
Plate Group gave many stories to ponder. From Ashutosh Aman’s record-breaking spree to Deepak Dhapola making ripples for Uttarakhand, it has been a season of some fantastic tales from some of India's cricketing backwaters. While some of the teams failed to make any sort of impression, especially the North-Esat teams, the other three teams in the group - Uttarakhand, Bihar and Puducherry - hold realistic chances to secure the lone berth available for the group.
With one match to go against Manipur, Bihar can secure a place in the QFs, but that depends on the result of Uttarakhand-Mizoram match. If Bihar
It is an interesting situation for Puducherry, who have four wins from their seven matches. Despite securing a bonus point win against Manipur in the last round, Puducherry now
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