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History of the Duleep Trophy

Rajneesh Gupta

The Ranji Trophy championship may be the national competition but in many ways, the Duleep Trophy is more important. It certainly is the more glamorous with the cream of Indian cricketers from the five zones taking part.

Duleep Trophy Winners
The dominant teams have been North Zone, West Zone and South Zone who have won the trophy 16, 13 and 10 times respectively on their own. Central Zone have established their claims on four occasions. Elite ‘C’ have one title win to their credit. On three occasions, the trophy had to be shared as the first innings could not be completed. 

Click Here for complete list of winners


BCCI decided to institute a trophy in the memory of K.S.Duleepsinhji (who like his uncle Ranji was an Indian but had played all his cricket in England), as a means to strengthen competition around the domestic circuit when it was noticed that playing standards in the Ranji Trophy, after 25 years, had stagnated. After his death towards the end of 1959, the Duleep Trophy tournament to be played among five zones – North, East, Central, West and South, was started in the season 1961-62. It has till now been played for 44 seasons and serves as a useful guide to the form of cricketers when a Test side for a domestic series has to be selected or a team for an overseas tour is to be chosen. A good performance in the Duleep Trophy has often been the ticket to a berth in the Indian squad.

In view of extended Ranji Trophy format, it was decided from 1996-97, that the Duleep Trophy matches be played as per the earlier knock-out format.

From 2000-01 season, the BCCI decided to do away with the new format which began in 1996-97 and shifted back to the earlier format of playing the round robin, where each of five zones meet each other once and team which gains the highest points was declared the winner.

In 2002-03 season, BCCI decided to play annually between five mixed teams. Three teams were selected from the players featuring in the Elite Group of Ranji Trophy and two teams from players featuring in the Plate Group. The matches were played on league basis in one zone and the placement of the teams was decided on the basis of the points earned in the league matches. Five teams were named as Elite A, Elite B, Elite C, Plate A and Plate B, but this format lasted for only one season as it was felt that the new teams lacked a sense of identity.

In 2003-04 the tournament was played under a new format of five zonal teams and a foreign team. Six teams were divided into two groups to play matches with each other in their respective groups on league basis and two top teams from each group met in the final. In 2003-04 England ‘A’ became the first overseas team to play in Duleep Trophy. Since then Bangladesh Cricket Board XI (2004-05), Zimbabwe Cricket Union President’s XI (2005-06), Sri Lanka A (2006-07) and England Lions (2007-08) have participated as the foreign sides in the tournament.

Duleep trophy winners
North Zone 16 times
West Zone 13 times
South Zone 10 times
Central Zone 4 times
Elite ‘C’ once

The trophy was shared on three occasions and teams involved were:
West Zone thrice
South Zone once
North Zone once
Central Zone once