Ranji Trophy 2021-22: Mumbai start heavy favorites in quarter-finals; UP bets on IPL stars

The 2022 Ranji Trophy Knockout Stage is fast approaching, with the Quarter-Finals taking place simultaneously at various venues in Karnataka State from Monday.

India’s premier domestic cricket competition returns this week after a two-month hiatus in which the 15th edition of the Indian Premier League took place.

The Ranji Trophy would normally take place during India’s winter home season – starting in December and ending in March.

Archive image of the Ranji Trophy. Image credit: BCCI

While the Ranji Trophy was suspended last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, it resumed operations in February this year as BCCI opted to split it into two phases.

The final round of group matches ended on March 6 while the pre-quarter-final to determine the eighth quarter-finalist took place from March 12-16, with Jharkhand holding Nagaland to a draw and qualifying for the next step.

The quarter-finals take place over the next five days, with the semi-finals then taking place from June 14. The final will be played at the iconic M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru later this month, from June 22-26.

Read: Teams, squads, fixtures, match schedules and everything you need to know about knockouts

With defending champion Saurashtra having already retired after finishing second in elite Group D behind Mumbai, the trophy is set to change hands this year.

Before the games start on Monday morning, here is a brief overview of the four games that are taking place:

QF1: Bengal vs Jharkhand at Just Cricket Academy, Bengaluru

Bengal are the only team so far to have won all three group stage games, having hammered Chandigarh by 152 points in their last outing following victories over Baroda and Hyderabad.

They will miss the services of wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha in the knockouts, with the latter stating he is “unwilling” to represent his home state following differences with the Bengal Cricket Association.

They start favorites against Jharkhand, a side which posted scores of 880 and 417/6 in the pre-quarter-final against Nagaland and ended up posting a lead of 1,008 runs – the highest ever in premiership cricket class.

QF2: Mumbai vs Uttarakhand at KSCA Cricket (2) Ground, Alur

Mumbai will be hoping to add a 42nd title to their overcrowded cabinet, having won the first competition in 2016. Led by Indian fly-half Prithvi Shaw, the Indian cricket powerhouses will start strong favorites against Uttarakhand.

Mumbai was held to a halt by Saurashtra in Ahmedabad and since then it has been a frantic race between the two teams for the qualifying spot, which the team eventually claimed with one set and a 109-point win over Odisha.

Uttarakhand, at the other end, are coming off an eight-wicket loss to Andhra in their last group game, and will be hoping to shake off that defeat and do it again on Monday. They are led by Jay Bista, who will face his former team.

QF3: Karnataka vs Uttar Pradesh at KSCA Cricket Ground, Alur

The most successful Ranji Trophy team after Mumbai with eight titles to their name, Karnataka have also been without a title for some time now, having not won the prestigious tournament since back-to-back titles in 2014 and 2015.

They will be led by Punjab Kings captain Mayank Agarwal and will also boast other big names such as Manish Pandey, Devdutt Padikkal and Karun Nair. A key name missing however is designer Prasidh Krishna, who will feature in the upcoming T20I series against South Africa.

They face Uttar Pradesh, a team made up of players who shone in the recent IPL – from KKR’s Rinku Singh to Yash Dayal and Mohsin Khan, who put up a fantastic run for IPL GT and LSG debutants respectively.

QF4: Punjab vs Madhya Pradesh at KSCA Cricket (3) Ground, Alur

Elite Group F tops Punjab will miss the services of left-arm Arshdeep Singh as Singh, like Karnataka’s Krishna, will be busy in the South African series. Punjab started with a draw against Himachal Pradesh but eventually managed to muddle through after convincing wins over neighbors Haryana and Tripura.

They face Madhya Pradesh, coached by the iconic Chandrakant Pandit – who coached Vidarbha to back-to-back titles towards the end of the previous decade and also orchestrated the last of Mumbai’s 41 titles in the 2015-16 season.

Among the key players to watch in the MP team is one Rajat Patidar, who had a stellar run for Royal Challengers Bangalore, especially in the playoffs.

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