MUMBAI: Returning after a gap of one season due to Covid, the Ranji Trophy, which will be held in two phases, will kick off from February 10 and conclude on June 26, BCCI secretary Jay Shah communicated to all the state associations in an e-mail (TOI has a copy) which detailed the format of the tournament, on Thursday. It is understood that the tournament will start from February 17.
Listing out the highlights of the 2020-21 edition of the Ranji Trophy, Shah informed that a total of 38 teams will feature in the tournament at nine venues. The league stage will be held before the IPL from February 10 to March 15, and will have 57 matches. The knockout stage will be held post the IPL, and will have seven matches from May 30 to June 26.
The teams have been divided into nine groups (eight Elite and One Plate). Each Elite Group will have four teams, while the Plate Group will have six teams. In the league stage, each team will play three matches. The Elite teams will play against each other, while the Plate teams will play against three teams from their group.
One team from each Elite Group will qualify for the quarterfinal (barring one). The lowest-ranked qualified team from the eight Elite Groups will play the top-ranked team from Plate Group in the pre-quarterfinal.
Overall, the tournament will have 64 matches played in 62 days. The venues for the Elite Group matches are Chennai, Trivandrum, Cuttack, Delhi, Haryana, Ahmedabad, Guwahati and Rajkot, while the venue for the Plate Group matches is Kolkata. Mumbai have been placed with defending champions Saurashtra, Odisha and Goa in Group Elite D- whose matches will be played in Ahmedabad.
The day-wise fixtures, match playing conditions, health and safety guidelines and staging association guidelines of the 2021-22 edition of the Ranji Trophy will be shared shortly, Shah wrote.
In the email, Shah wrote: "Dear members, I hope this email finds you well. I'm pleased to share that we are now truly set to resume both international and domestic cricket with full thrust. The coming months are going to be replete with cricketing action. We've waited patiently for the grip of the pandemic to loosen, and the time has come for our cricketers to take the centrestage all over again.
"We'll have a packed few months with Team India (senior) playing against the West Indies and Sri Lanka, while our domestic cricket will spring back to life with the resumption of the Ranji Trophy, our premier domestic competition. The structure of the revised Ranji Trophy format for the 2021-22 season is now ready. My team at the BCCI had closely worked on several models, as I had stated earlier. And the one I'm going to share now has been devised keeping several important factors in mind."
Explaining why the BCCI had spread out the Ranji Trophy to nine venues, he wrote: "We've spread out the Ranji Trophy to nine different venues across the country to mitigate any cross-transmission risk, while also ensuring that the bio-secure bubbles are not overburdened. While the persistent virus has still breached the bubble, we've factored in certain contingency plans drawing from our past experience while formulating this structure."
The 2021-22 edition of the Ranji Trophy was originally slated to begin on January 13 but postponed due to a surge in covid cases in the country.
Elite A: Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Meghalaya. Venue: Rajkot.
Elite B: Bengal, Baroda, Hyderabad, Chandigarh. Venue: Cuttack.
Elite C: Karnataka, Jammu & Kashmir, Railways, Pondicherry. Venue: Chennai.
Elite D: Saurashtra, Mumbai, Odisha, Goa. Venue: Ahmedabad.
Elite E: Andhra, Rajasthan, Services, Uttarakhand. Venue: Trivandrum.
Elite F: Punjab, Himachal, Haryana, Tripura. Venue: Delhi
Elite G: Vidarbha, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Assam. Venue: Haryana.
Elite H: Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh. Venue: Guwahati.
Plate Group: Bihar, Nagaland, Sikkim, Manipur, Mizoram, Arunachal. Venue: Kolkata.
In Ahmedabad, the matches will be held at the Narendra Modi Stadium, Narendra Modi Stadium-2 and the Gujarat College Ground. In Kolkata, the matches will be played at the Eden Gardens, Bengal Cricket Academy in Kalyani, Videocon Academy Ground in Saltair and Jadavpur University 2nd ground. In Rajkot, the matches will be held at the SCA Stadium, SCA Stadium Khanderi B Ground and the Madhavrao Scindia Ground.
Haryana: Ch Bansi Lal Cricket Stadium in Rohtak and Gurugram Cricket Ground.
Delhi: Arun Jaitley Stadium, Roshanara Ground.
Guwahati: Barsapara Cricket Stadium, Judges Field, NFRSA Ground.
Cuttack: The matches will be held at the Barabati Stadium, KIIT, Bhubaneshwar, Vikas Cricket Ground in Bhubaneshwar and the DRIEMS Ground.
Trivandrum: St Xavier's KCA Cricket Ground, Greenfield Stadium, KCA Stadium, Manglapuram.
Chennai: MA Chidambaram Stadium, IIT Chemplast, IC-Gurunanak College Ground.