CHENNAI: The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is planning to stage the Ranji Trophy in a maximum of five states. Its operations team has begun identifying the venues which will ensure a hassle-free tournament in the midst of the pandemic. As revealed by BCCI president Sourav Ganguly, the domestic season will begin with Ranji Trophy in January and could possibly go on till April-end as the board tries to accommodate as many tournaments as possible.
The BCCI discussed domestic cricket at the Apex Council meeting last Saturday. Though no formal plan was put forward, it is understood that the members have been told that women's and age-group tournaments will begin as late as possible keeping in mind the Covid-19 situation. There is a strong possibility that these tournaments will begin by March, as the BCCI wants to finish the men's events before next year's Indian Premier League.
The BCCI's initial plan was to resume the domestic season in December, but it has postponed it by a month looking at the situation in the country. Though national-level events across disciplines have been affected, the football season has started with I-League qualifiers already done. Goa is gearing up to host the Indian Super Leauge from the third week of November (tentative).
The BCCI believes it can start its season by January, as some of the states are yet to open facilities for players. It is learnt that the BCCI will write to the state units, asking for a letter of intent to host domestic matches after seeking permission from the respective state governments. However, there are indications that a few venues have already been short-listed for Ranji Trophy and a formal proposal is likely to be sent in the coming weeks.
With the tournament scheduled to start in January, no venue up north may be considered because of fog and light issues. Chennai, Bengaluru, Vadodara, Vijaywada and Visakhapatnam are spoken about as possible options with one more city likely to be added. It is understood that teams in each group will be based in one city and state units can use all the facilities they run, provided there is not much travel.
All the cities mentioned have multiple venues capable of hosting first-class fixtures. Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra apart from having Chennai, Bengaluru/Alur, Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam, have the option of using Dindigul, Tirunelveli, Salem, Coimbatore, Mysuru, Hubbali, Shivamoga, Ongole, Kadappa, Guntur. All these places can be reached by road from the main city. Whether the BCCI will take the travel risk remains to be seen. An official revealed that keeping a group to one city would be a safer ploy, but they are keeping options open.