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Features and Interviews


An account of the birth of the Ranji Trophy

An account of the birth of the Ranji Trophy

The 80th edition of the Ranji Trophy, India’s premier domestic cricket championship, will commence on Sunday. 27 October 2013.

This was how it all began…

Not many people, perhaps, know that the final inspiration behind the birth of the Ranji Trophy was the firebrand England captain Douglas Jardine, whose name was otherwise besmirched by the ‘Bodyline’ controversy. When he brought the first England team to India in 1933, he was greatly impressed by the profusion of talent that he was witness to. He was particularly impressed by the eager manner in which players came together from distant places for the common purpose of playing for the country.

Talking to Indian officials on the eve of the Test match at the Bombay Gymkhana, Jardine suggested that the sooner India started a proper National Championship, the better it would be for the development of the game in the country. An intent listener was Anthony de Mello, the first Secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India. It was through his efforts that a full meeting of the BCCI was called in Simla in the summer of 1934. Sikandar Hayat Khan, the then Governor of Punjab, who was also the president of the BCCI, chaired the meeting, and it was unanimously decided to start a National Championship in the coming season.

Anthony de Mello made an excellent presentation. He placed on the table an artist’s model of a well-designed trophy – a Grecian urn, two feet high, with a lid, whose handles had the symbol of Father Time, as is seen on the weather-cock at Lord’s. Even as he was halfway through his speech, Bhupinder Singh, the Maharaja of Patiala, sprung from his seat and said that he would donate the cost of the trophy to be made in gold, provided it was named after Kumar Shri Ranjitsinhji, who had passed away just a year ago.

The proposal was accepted. It was only later that a debate rose over the issue of naming the National Championship after a man who had never played cricket in India. The Maharaj Kumar of Vizianagram (Vizzy) was not to let go the opportunity to oppose Patiala and his clique. He had an elegant trophy, almost equal in size, of chipped gold, made in London. It was designed by Lady Willingdon, the wife of the then Viceroy of India. Vizzy insisted that the National Championship be called the Willingdon Trophy.

It may sound strange, but when the National Cricket Championship of India started, the teams did not even know what trophy they were playing for.

Mumbai won the inaugural tournament in 1934-35, beating Northern India in the final. However, the winners’ trophy was presented to Mumbai the following year when they repeated the success. The great irony, as far as Vizzy and Co. were concerned, was that the Viceroy, Lord Willingdon, himself decided on presenting the trophy named after K.S. Ranjitsinhji.

Whatever might have happened, the Ranji Trophy had come to stay. Of all the cricket-playing countries of the world, India is the only one to have the National Championship named after a cricketing legend. Thus the great distinction of the Ranji Trophy, as compared to the plain County Championship in England, the Sheffield Shield in Australia, the Currie Cup in South Africa or the Plunkett Shield in New Zealand.

As years went by, sponsors and their brand names commanded a preference over cricketing celebrities. An attempt was made, some years ago, to prefix a sponsor’s name to our National Championship, whose format has undergone changes several times over the years. The effort, however, did not succeed, as any dilution of the original name, particularly as stately and as reverential as that of Ranji, could not be tolerated.

S.K. Sham was one of India’s most eminent cricket writers. This article was written in 2009, for the BCCI’s Ranji Trophy Platinum Jubilee Volume.

Features and Interviews

My role is to be aggressive: Johnson

Australian pacer wants to continue using effective short-ball strategy

Australian pacer wants to continue using effective short-ball strategy

Australia’s bowling spearhead, Mitchell Johnson, claimed the Indian middle order and sent the hosts on the back foot in the third ODI at the PCA Stadium in Mohali. The fast bowler claimed four key wickets and finished with 10-1-46-4. The tall bowler has posed a few questions to the Indian batsmen on the tour so far and has been utilised carefully and cleverly by his skipper. He has bowled in short spells and has been able to put breaks on India’s scoring.

Johnson’s decisive spells in the third ODI stood out in a high-scoring game that saw MS Dhoni (139* off 121) counterattack to set up the game and later witnessed James Faulkner’s (64* off 29) blitzkrieg to snatch the match away from India.

After Australia’s thrilling win to take a 2-1 lead in the seven-match ODI series, spoke to Johnson about his bowling, the successful use of short balls and the strategy against Indian batsmen.

Excerpts from his interview:

You relished the bowling conditions in Mohali?

I did enjoy it. The weather was quite nice it was not as humid and hot as the last two places. The wicket had a little bit more pace in it than Jaipur, so it was quite nice to be able to get the short ones up there again. But it was a bit of a shocker towards the end of the match; one of the best matches that I will be involved in. It has been a crazy day.

After your captain called correctly and after the start you got, did you expect a 300-plus score?

Yea, we have been doing that batting first. We have sort of got to get through that new-ball period and that’s what they did today. They sort of waited on a little bit; MS came out and took his time and then he cashed in at the end. I guess there is a little bit of the same with our batting innings here tonight as well. It seems to be the way to go at the moment in these conditions, to see the new ball through and then get into the game a little bit, work those singles and twos and then start hitting some of big shots through the end. So obviously with two new balls I guess that is the way that everyone is going on.

The way you started it must have been tempting for George Bailey to bowl your 10 overs on the trot. However, he has been using you in small bursts in the games so far.

It has been the plan for us at the moment; I try to bowl aggressively. I bowl my short balls in these conditions, so short spells are probably going to work better for me. Looking to try and get into their middle order a bit as well when I am fresh so we can expose them that way. I have really enjoyed the role that I have had over here with the aggressive mindset. So George has done an exceptional job there and I think he has worked his bowlers well.

How important is pace to you?

It is not everything. I like to swing the ball as well. If I am swinging the ball with pace, that’s even better. I have always enjoyed a challenge over here and I have always said that your slower balls and cutters are very important in these wickets. So I am just using them at the right times. So through that middle period I just mix it up as much as I can and try not to be too predictable; and it paid off today.

You have been using the short ball successfully. Can you elaborate on the strategy there?

The way that I think about the short ball is that over here the wicket’s got a little bit uneven bounce, so I reckon it’s a pretty good tool to have the short ball over in these conditions; and I have always said that. You get that variable bounce. We saw in Pune that the wicket was actually a little bit quicker and got through nicely, and then in the last game in Jaipur it was a little bit slower; it was quite hard to get up and even out. Here it was hard, but I think it is effective especially against the Indian players – they probably like to play more off the front foot. Since it’s working, I am going to keep doing it.

How do you handle the responsibility given to you?

We have all got our roles in the team and this is my role, it is to be aggressive. We are all doing our roles and we are all working together, working in partnerships. Clint McKay has an outstanding one-day record and I have really enjoyed bowling with him and through back end as well with Jimmy Faulkner. Having a youngster like that, who is fearless, is very exciting. So everyone just knows their roles and we are enjoying ourselves.

Your thoughts on the batting today – MS Dhoni’s unbeaten century and James Faulkner’s match-winning innings

MS he worked the ball around initially. He had an injury as well so it is pretty courageous to keep going. It was an amazing finish that he put on. The helicopter shot came out again, which he is famous for. That’s what you expect from him; the captain stood up at the right time. Unfortunately for him and his team Faulkner outshone him. It was just staggering. We were a little bit nervous, I was the next in to bat and we were hoping that he would go after Ravichandran Ashwin a bit more. But he just couldn’t get a boundary. But then he picked his moment and went for it. That’s how he has always played. So just loved the way he played tonight. He won it for us tonight.