India's premier red-ball cricket tournament, the Ranji Trophy 2023-24 is set to begin on January 5, with 38 participating teams competing across two leagues for over 40 days. The country's official domestic cricket calendar for the year was underway in June last year, as the Duleep Trophy came to a close with South Zone lifting the trophy.
SANJU, RIYAN AND ROYALS IN ACTION
As many as nine players from the Rajasthan Royals squad are set to represent their respective domestic teams in the upcoming Ranji Trophy. Royals skipper Sanju Samson will lead Kerala. Sanju was recently in action in the ODI series against South Africa, where he scored his maiden international century. On the other hand, Riyan Parag's consistent performances for Assam mean he continues to assume the captaincy duties going into the Ranji Trophy.
Navdeep Saini will turn up for Delhi, Sandeep Sharma for Chandigarh, Dhruv Jurel for Uttar Pradesh and local boy Kunal Singh Rathore, who scored a fighting half-century in the Vijay Hazare Trophy final a few weeks ago, will continue to ply his trade for Rajasthan.
Among the IPL 2024 Royals recruits, Avesh Khan has been named in the Madhya Pradesh side. Avesh is coming off a productive tour of South Africa, where his striking performance in the unofficial Test series earned him a call-up to the senior India Test side. The Royals pacer was also among the Top 10 wicket-takers in the 2022-23 Ranji Trophy, leading the wicket-tally of his team with 38 scalps.
Meanwhile, middle-order batter Shubham Dubey has been included in Vidarbha's senior team for the first time, after a scintillating run in the recently concluded Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy 2023, where he finished as Vidarbha's highest run-scorer. On the other hand, left-arm spinner Abid Mushtaq will play for his Ranji side, Jammu & Kashmir in a bid to continue his impressive first-class form of late.
The Ranji Trophy 2023-24 will be played across two divisions - Elite and Plate - to ensure that the tournament continues to remain fair and produce top-quality cricket, as has been the norm over the past few years.
In the Elite division, 32 teams are divided into 4 groups of 8 teams each, with every team set to play 7 league matches. The top 2 teams from each group will progress to the quarter-finals. The two lowest-ranked teams across all Elite groups, based on points and quotient, will be relegated to the Plate division for the next season.
The Plate division comprises 6 teams, each playing against the others once. The top 4 teams will advance to the knockout stage. The two finalists from this division will be promoted to the Elite division for the next season.
TOURNAMENT DATES & FINAL
The competition begins on January 5, with Nagaland and Hyderabad inaugurating the Plate Division at Sovima (Nagaland), followed by Arunachal Pradesh vs Meghalaya, and Mizoram vs Sikkim. The Elite Division also kicks off simultaneously in the rest of the states, with the final slated to be held on February 17.
Defending champions Saurashtra are placed in Elite Group A, alongside two-time winners Vidarbha, and recent Vijay Hazare Trophy winners Haryana among others. Saurashtra will also have the services of their veteran batter Cheteshwar Pujara. Last year's Ranji Trophy finalists Bengal find themselves in Group B with heavyweights Mumbai, who will be eyeing their 42nd title with a boost to their squad in the experienced Ajinkya Rahane.
What happened in Ranji Trophy 2023-24?
Former Royals player and Saurashtra captain Jaydev Unadkat starred in the Ranji Trophy 2022-23 final against Bengal, leading Saurashtra to their second title in three years with a thumping 9-wicket win.
Picture credits: BCCI