If one needs to strike a conversation with an Indian, cricket seems to be one of the easiest topics that anyone-and-everyone would have something to say. There might be regional faces and aces like Saurav Ganguly hailing from West Bengal; Rahul Dravid, who was born in the heartland of Madhya Pradesh at Indore; or of course the legend himself- Sachin Tendulkar. But it is indeed impossible to imagine someone, who has no relation with the octogenarian game of India today.
So it was after a meeting in 1934, the Cricket Championship of India, popularly known as the Ranji Trophy of our times, breathed into life. The first season that stretched between 1934 and 1935 had 15 teams divided into four zones. The game followed a knock-out format and had another unique point system that continues till today. As per this point system, teams gain points according to their performance in the first innings and in the wake of a draw, these first innings lead points help determining the winning team.
The first game was played between Madras and Mysore on November 4, 1934 at Chepauk and Madras became the first ever team to have won in a cricket test match in the Cricket Championship of India. However, it was Mumbai that would dominate the series winning 15 titles back-to-back from 1958-59 to 1972-73. In the first season, among the two contesting team in the final, the highest runs were scored by V M Merchant (389) P J Churry (274) from the winning Bombay team and GEB Abell (361) and Aga Raza (219) from the runner up-team– Northern India. However, the highest number of wickets was taken by S Mubarak Ali playing for Northern India; he had taken as many as 20 wickets. While D R Puri from the same team had 17 wickets to his name.
It is this very tournament that has given the country cricketing gems across generation from Sachin Tendulkar to Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. The names and legends are innumerable and uncountable. It is indeed true that before the Indian Premiere League, it was the Ranji Trophy that served a fertile ground to make legends out of budding talents. Although the IPL itself derives its cricketers from the Ranji, yet performance is definitely limited soley to the Ranji matches, especially as twenty-twenty continues to gain greater popularity against the 50-over One Day International matches. It is indeed a curious phenomenon to note that with the advent of the T-20 format, even that ODIs seem to be stretched and tediously long. As a child I used to feel the same ennui for test-matches with five long days of what-seemed-like “actionless” cricket. Of course, today even the test matches are result-oriented and hence a lot of action takes place even with the comparatively dull white-robed players on the field. But action swells to another level within the T-20 format with each delivery and each wicket having the quality of a climax, which keeps one hooked to the game. However, despite the glamour and charm, the Ranji Trophy continues to hold a special place in every cricketing heart and every toddler player aspiring to don the blue jersey. It is that common field of dreams that has been realised for too many stars, too many times.
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