CHENNAI: The chances of Ranji Trophy finding a slot in the truncated domestic calendar appears bleak for various reasons. India's premier domestic tournament is not even the second preferred option for a majority of state units, who submitted their response to the BCCI, on Wednesday.
Syed Mushtaq Ali T20s remains the only tournament which is preferred commonly by all with Vijay Hazare the second.
Ranji Trophy has been pushed to third because of the complications. Even though the BCCI has stated that Mushtaq Ali T20 will begin from December 20, several units prefer the tournament to be played in January as they are keen on holding a pre-season camp. Most of the teams are yet to conduct any camp with teams in the northern belt hit severely because of the pandemic. In such a situation, December 20 is too close to start the domestic season.
There is also acknowledgement in the BCCI corridors that in case only white-ball tournaments are slotted, Mushtaq Ali T20s can be scheduled for January giving teams enough time to prepare. However, the BCCI also has to take into account the IPL auctions as well, which it is planning to host in January. But BCCI officials reckon auction days can be adjusted.
Several units are of the view that the conduct of Mushtaq Ali T20s will give them a fair picture whether to go ahead with the Ranji Trophy or not. Their fears mostly centre around the need to stay in a bio-secure bubble for 67 days. Though the operations team of the BCCI has hinted at having groups based on the zones with Plate Group being the lone exception to this, state units are not convinced about the idea.
According to several state units, the bio-secure bubble will not be as secure as the one the BCCI created for the IPL. For instance, the blue-tooth tracker (worn by players, support staff, match-officials and other stakeholders) which kept an eye on their movement to report on any breach in the bubble, will not be available for the domestic season because of the costs involved.
Moreover, under a relaxed bubble, members reckon in case there is a reported Covid-19 case, it will disrupt the potential Ranji schedule. Though that is possible even in T20s and 50-over tournaments, both don't run beyond a month and match days can be extended. But that won't be possible in Ranji Trophy.
Apart from these factors, there is also the cricketing side of challenges. Considering the BCCI is looking at six venues and hardly any rest period in between, there are fears that pitches will get tired as the tournament progresses, which could result in quality being compensated.