This one will be a clincher, the big promotion to the Elite Group being at stake. Four teams from the Plate Division, after having played some tough cricket for over a month-and-half and topped their pool, are now set to lock horns.
Whether they claim the two coveted spots and play the Ranji Trophy quarterfinals will depend on winning a single Plate Division semifinal. But is it, after all, fair to have so much riding on one game? Isn't beating the fellow teams and topping the league good enough for promotion? The 12 teams that make up the Plate Division are split into two groups of six each to play the five league matches. Topping this league therefore cannot be a case of good luck.
Unfortunately, that isn't considered achievement enough and the teams are asked to claim a spot once again. Curiously though, the team standing first in a given group is asked to play the runner-up of the other group. So even the team standing second in a pool gets a chance to vie for the Elite Group spot. Is this justified?
In some cases, standing second and competing with the topper of the other pool might prove to be a boon. This year Rajasthan, after topping their pool, will play against Maharashtra, in Nasik, their home turf. Clearly, the latter will have an advantage. Are we rewarding mediocrity?
In 2007, Delhi would have struggled to win the final against UP had they played at Kanpur or Lucknow, for their poor spin attack was no secret. UP, without doubt, would have opted for a rank turner and it may have been enough to see them through. But, the final in neutral Mumbai ensured a brilliant wicket which allowed the better team to win, albeit over five days. That's crucial - a five-day game, which is a must for all knock-out matches.
Most four-day games are decided on first innings lead. In fact, Delhi had conceded the first innings lead but had enough time to bounce back and win over five days.
Elite Group membership is a tough task, and teams must toil to get one. But the argument here is about rationality and good sense.