The 80th edition of the Ranji Trophy came to an end with Karnataka winning the national tournament after a gap of 15 years. Maharashtra, who last made the final in 1992-93, had a wonderful season too, but didn’t put up enough of a fight in the final match. Karnataka will now meet Rest of India in the Irani Cup, in what used to be the first match of the season but has now become the last game of the Indian domestic first-class season.
The idea of playing an Irani Cup match was first conceived during the 1959-60 season to mark the completion of 25 years of the Ranji Trophy. It was named after the late Zal R Irani, who was actively involved with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in various capacities from its inception in 1928, right up until his death in 1970. Before becoming president of the Board from 1966 to 1969, Irani was the honorary treasurer from 1948 to 1962, and was also one of the vice-presidents from 1963 to 1965. In appreciation of his selfless services to Indian cricket, the BCCI instituted a trophy in his name, to be presented to the winners of a match between the Ranji Trophy champions of the preceding year and a selected Rest of India XI.
Initially the Irani Trophy – as it was called – was played at the end of the Indian cricket season. However, realising the importance of the fixture in the annual calendar, the BCCI decided to treat it as the lung-opener for the season from September 1965. From the 2012-13 season, the fixture was moved again, to be played immediately after the Ranji Trophy final. Because of these changes, the previous season saw the first instance of two games being played – one at the start of the season, and the other after the 2012-13 Ranji Trophy final.
The first match of the Irani Cup was played between Bombay and the Rest at the Feroz Shah Kotla ground in New Delhi from March 18 to 20 in 1960. Though the match was drawn, Bombay were declared winners by virtue of having gained the first-innings lead. Polly Umrigar, the captain of the winning side, has the distinction of scoring the first century of the tournament – 102 in 137 minutes with 14 fours. Jasu Patel, the Gujarat offspinner, who had claimed 14 wickets against Australia at Kanpur just three months before this match, was the first to take a five-wicket haul (5 for 98 in 23 overs) for the Rest of India team. Interestingly, in a bizarre situation for a first-class game, Rest of India’s twelfth man Prem Bhatia was allowed to bat in the team’s second innings in place of Lala Amarnath, the captain.
This season’s encounter at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium at Bangalore will be the 52nd Irani Cup match. Rest of India, not surprisingly, have won the Irani Cup most times with 26 triumphs, followed by Bombay/Mumbai who have 15. Incidentally, both these teams had to share the title once in September 1965 at the Corporation (Nehru) Stadium in Madras, when rain prevented a result even on first-innings totals. The other teams to win the title are Karnataka, who have been triumphant four times, Delhi and Railways who have won twice each, and Hyderabad, Tamil Nadu and Haryana – who have all won once. In recent years the Rest of India teams have totally dominated the series. The team has now won eight titles in a row from 2006-07, including two titles in the same season in 2012-13.
As the challenger, Rest of India have obviously appeared in most matches – 51 – followed by Bombay/Mumbai who have appeared in 28 matches, Karnataka and Delhi in six each, and Railways and Rajasthan in two each. Baroda, Bengal, Haryana, Hyderabad, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh have all appeared once in the Irani Cup. Rest of India have the distinction of winning the most games outright with 22 wins. They are followed once again by Bombay/Mumbai with 12 wins. Conversely, Rest of India’s 23 losses is also the highest followed by Bombay/Mumbai’s 11 losses.
The Irani Cup has always seen the emergence of many a star on the Indian cricket scene. During the 1980s and ’90s, when the cricket schedule wasn’t as hectic as it is these days, top stars never failed to turn up for their sides. With such a rich history behind it, the series is a treasure trove of stats, records and trivia, some of which have been detailed hereunder:
Rest of India’s 737 for 7 declared in 197.4 overs against Bengal at Bangalore in November 1990 is the highest total by a team in the tournament, while the Rest’s 83 in 37.1 overs against Bombay at Anantapur in March 1964 is the lowest. For the record, Karnataka’s highest is 405 for 9 declared in 122.2 overs at the Rajkot Municipal Stadium in September 1983 while their lowest is 91 in 33.5 overs at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore in October 1999.
The Sawai Mansingh Stadium at Jaipur in October 2010 saw a record 1749 runs being scored for the loss of 33 wickets by both teams: Rest of India (668 and 387 for 3 declared) and Mumbai (274 and 420). Rest of India won the match by 361 runs. The match at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata in November 1966 had the lowest run aggregate of 427 for the loss of 34 wickets with Bombay (113 and 99) facing Rest of India (134 and 81 for 4), and losing by six wickets.
Rest of India’s victory by an innings and 232 runs over Delhi at the Barkatullah Khan Stadium in Jodhpur in November 1986 is the biggest in the Irani Cup, while the Rest’s 404-run win over Rajasthan at Jaipur’s Sawai Mansingh Stadium in October 2011 is the biggest in terms of runs. The 10-wicket wins by Bombay and the Rest in October 1976 and October 2000, respectively, are the biggest in terms of wickets. Mumbai’s 54-run win at the Wankhede Stadium in October 1997 is the narrowest in the Irani Cup history in terms of runs.
In October 1982, Rest of India achieved a remarkable five-wicket win with just four balls to spare when they beat Delhi at the Feroz Shah Kotla after being set a near impossible target of 421 runs in just 226 minutes and 20 mandatory overs. The architects of the victory were Kris Srikkanth (110 in 93 minutes with 14 fours and 4 sixes; the hundred coming in 90 balls) and Ashok Malhotra (116 not out in 172 minutes off 109 balls with 12 fours and a six). Rest of India’s 100 came in 86 minutes, 200 in 162 minutes, 300 in 240 minutes and 400 in just 296 minutes!
Tamil Nadu won the Irani Cup in style in October 1988 at the Chepauk stadium when they successfully chased a target of 340 in about 80 overs, despite conceding a first-innings lead of 207 runs after their opponents did not enforce the follow-on. The hero of the match was undoubtedly VB Chandrasekhar, the Tamil Nadu opener who was dismissed first-ball in the first innings, but blasted 119 in 123 minutes off just 78 balls, with eight sixes and 11 fours; with his hundred coming off just 56 balls!
M Vijay’s 266 in 394 balls, with 36 fours and 6 sixes against Rajasthan at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore is the highest individual score by a batsman. It is also the longest innings (10 hours, 18 minutes) by a batsman in the Irani Cup. In all, seven scores of 200-plus have been made in the series and the first batsman to do so was Gundappa Viswanath, who hit 200 not out for Karnataka at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Stadium at Navarangpura in Ahmedabad in October 1974.
Since Polly Umrigar’s first century in the Irani Cup in 1960, in all 94 centuries have been scored. Viswanth and Dilip Vengsarkar have the distinction of scoring the most centuries – four each – followed by Sunil Gavaskar and Abhinav Mukund who have three centuries each.
Shikhar Dhawan is the only batsman to score a hundred in each innings of an Irani Cup match, with 177 and 155 for Rest of India against Rajasthan at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur in October 2011. His aggregate of 332 runs is also the most scored by a batsman in a single match.
Viswanath (who played for both Rest of India and Karnataka) and Wasim Jaffer (for Mumbai and Rest of India) have the distinction of being the only batsmen in this series to aggregate more than 1,000 runs. Viswanath has 1,001 runs (average of 77.00) in nine matches and Jaffer has 1008 runs (average of 53.05) in 11 games.
VVS Laxman has the distinction of aggregating the most runs for the Rest of India team with 694 at an average of 49.57 in eight matches, while Viswanath has made the most runs for Karnataka with 407 at an average of 81.40 in three matches.
The fourth-wicket partnership of 327 runs between Ravi Shastri (217) and Pravin Amre (246) for Rest of India against Bengal at Bangalore in November 1990 is the highest in the series.
Murali Kartik, who took 9 for 70 with his left-arm spin for Rest of India against Mumbai at the Wankhede Stadium in October 2000 has the best bowling figures. The only other bowler with nine wickets in an innings is another left-armer, with Ravi Shastri claiming 9 for 191 for Bombay at the Nehru Stadium in October 1981. Javagal Srinath’s 6 for 77 at Bangalore in October 1999 is the best for Karnataka in the series.
Anil Kumble’s 13 got 138 for Rest against Delhi in Delhi in September 1992 is the best ever match performance by a bowler in the Irani Cup, while Dodda Ganesh’s 11 for 173 at Bangalore in September 1996 are the best match figures for Karnataka.
Padmakar Shivalkar, the Bombay left -arm spinner, has the distinction of claiming the most wickets in Irani Cups with 51 wickets at an average of 21.43 in 10 games. Dodda Ganesh with 15 wickets at 19.20 in three matches has the most wickets for Karnataka. S Venkataraghavan has taken 34 wickets in eight games, the most by any bowler for Rest of India.
Wicketkeeping and fielding records:
Nayan Mongia has claimed 26 dismissals (23 catches and 3 stumpings) , the most by a wicketkeeper, in six games for Rest of India and Baroda. Ajit Wadekar, the former Bombay and India captain, has the most catches as a fielder, with 14 in 11 games.
Ashok Mankad, who has appeared in 13 Irani Cup matches, has the distinction of appearing in the most matches. He made his appearances from 1964 to 1981, and they were all for one team: Bombay. S Venkataraghavan and VVS Laxman have appeared in the most games for Rest of India, with eight matches.
Ajit Wadekar (for Bombay) and Sunil Gavaskar (for Bombay and Rest of India) have the distinction of leading their respective sides on six occasions – the most by any player.