CHENNAI: The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has given its units four options to choose from to conduct the domestic season. Although four possible scenarios have been sent, the domestic season will not be a full-fledged one and there won't be space for at least one format.
According to a mail sent by the BCCI president Sourav Ganguly to its affiliates on Sunday, the domestic season could begin as early as December 20 if the units opt to play the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20s.
In the email to the state units, the four options given by the BCCI include: A) Only Ranji Trophy, B) Only Syed Mushtaq Ali T20s, C) Both Ranji Trophy and Syed Mushtaq Ali and D) Only Syed Mushtaq Ali and Vijay Hazare Trophy.
The units have to respond by December 2 by picking one of the above options as the BCCI has stated that it needs to set up six bio-secure bubbles across the country to host these tournaments.
The email also mentions windows for each of the tournaments with Syed Mushtaq Ali slotted for December 20-January 11. The Ranji Trophy, which will have 67 match days, will begin on January 11 and run till March 18.
The Vijay Hazare Trophy, which doesn't seem to be the top of the priority list and would be played in case Ranji Trophy doesn't happen, will run from January 11 to February 7.
The BCCI believes there is time to accommodate at least two senior men's tournament and the Syed Mushtaq Ali has gained importance as there are also talks of hosting a full-fledged player auction ahead of the next IPL, which is likely to have 9 teams.
Most state units have been eager to play but given the fact that the Ranji Trophy as well, the Covid-19 numbers are increasing in the northern part of India, that might change.
The BCCI is working on setting up six bio-secure bubbles which will see a slight change in the makeup of Elite and Plate group. Over the last two seasons, the Plate group has been played with 10 teams, but this might be reduced to eight.
The Elite group which had 28 teams in Group A, B and C will undergo a change this season with five groups consisting of six teams each, taking the total to 30.
As reported earlier by this newspaper, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra, Baroda and Bengal cricket associations are in contention to host the Elite teams with Pondicherry talked about as a host for the Plate division. But with the Cricket Association of Pondicherry not able to use its stadiums for its local tournament because of some issues with the UT government, it remains to be seen if it hosts any matches this season.
The BCCI has stated that in the six cities, at least three venues should have the facility to digitally broadcast matches.
Chennai, Bengaluru, Vijayawada/Visakhapatnam and Vizianagaram, Baroda, Kolkata all have venues with such facilities. Other than increasing Covid-19 numbers, northern cities are likely to be left out because visibility has been an issue during winter.
The BCCI usually begins its domestic season by September end but this time was forced to push back because of the pandemic. As a result, Irani Cup, Duleep Trophy and Deodhar Trophy have been scrapped.