It seems the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) wants teams to tank a few matches in the Vijay Hazare Trophy.
The nation's top one-day tournament is played in five zones with the top two teams from each qualifying for the knockout stage.
With 10 in the fray, four have to play an extra elimination match to decide on the quarter-finalists. The convention is that the last season's semi-finalists get a bye to the last-eight stage. The finalists, in this case Bengal (E1) and Mumbai (W1), are seeded one and two. The losing semi-finalists, it was Delhi (N1) and Punjab (N2) in the previous edition, would be placed fifth and sixth on the list of 10 provided they qualify irrespective of their position in the group.
Draw of lots
Lots are drawn for the rest before the meet starts and this time it so happened that, the top team from South (Karnataka) have to play an extra pre-quarter final match. On the other hand, the team finishing second in South Zone (Kerala) got a bye to the quarter-finals.
The draw also ensured that both teams from Central Zone (Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh) must play the pre-quarter finals while the two from West Zone get byes to the round of eight. Also, East Zone champions Assam have to face Central Zone toppers Madhya Pradesh in the pre-quarters.
Facing Uttar Pradesh in the last-16 stage means Karnataka have the toughest path to the quarter-finals. "Although the fixtures were sent to the association before the tournament, we had not seen it till we came back to Bangalore," said Karnataka coach J Arun Kumar, who has led Karnataka and Assam in the Ranji Trophy.
"But I don't see any logic in this draw," said Kumar, whose side carries an all-win record to the knockout phase. "On a lighter note, we will get an extra match to practice and get used to the conditions."
Karnataka defeated Andhra in their last league match by 1 wicket with two balls to spare. Had they tied that match, they could have still qualified, but things could have been different. But little did they know that playing well would put them at a disadvantage.
BCCI officials did not want to come on record but accepted that the draw gave a slight advantage to "a few lucky teams".