CHENNAI: For the second time in as many years, India's domestic season is unlikely to have its premier domestic tournament, the Ranji Trophy.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India's (BCCI) office-bearers had a meeting on Tuesday and, according to reliable sources, it has been decided that should the Covid situation improve, other domestic events including Cooch Behar, CK Nayudu and the senior women's T20 will be held, but due to the short window, hosting Ranji Trophy will not be possible.
As things stand, the BCCI has not communicated anything officially to the state units. It is believed the BCCI have sought time but state associations have all but given up hope. While the Ranji Trophy was scheduled to begin on January 13, the onset of the third Covid wave meant the BCCI was forced to suspend the domestic season on January 4.
Although the BCCI had stated that it had only postponed the start by 15 days, there has been little development since then and the Covid cases have only been increasing in most cities across the country.
As per BCCI's original schedule, it needs around 75 days to host the Ranji Trophy. When the tournament was suspended, the BCCI initially thought of splitting it into two halves, sandwiched between the IPL.
Under this method, the group stages were scheduled to be played in February-March, with the knockout stages in June-July or September-October. However, the onset of the southwest monsoon in June would make it impossible to host the matches in June-July.
So, for the BCCI to host Ranji Trophy in two halves, the tournament has to begin at least by February 20, because the next edition of the IPL is scheduled to start on April 2 as they need at least 35 days to hold the five group stage matches. With the players supposed to enter IPL bio-bubble by March 20, unless the tournament begins by February first week, it will make it impossible for the BCCI to host it.
As a result, the BCCI is being left with no choice but to scrap Ranji Trophy again. If it is not able to host the tournament this season, questions will be raised about their decision to host white-ball events — Syed Mushtaq Ali T20s and Vijay Hazare Trophy — ahead of the Ranji Trophy. While the initial plan was to start the current domestic season with the Ranji Trophy, the BCCI changed the plans keeping the IPL auctions in mind.
In fact, state associations and players have been fearing the worst since the rejig as it clearly sent a signal of the BCCI prioritising white-ball meets over Ranji Trophy. Cancelling the Ranji Trophy means several domestic players, umpires and match officials will suffer financial hits.
World over, the BCCI is the only cricket board not to conduct red-ball cricket the previous season. While none of the other mainstream cricket nations has as many as 38 teams, given the BCCI's resources it is not an impossible task. Although playing the entire tournament under a bio-secure environment will definitely shoot up the expenses, it should never be an issue for the board which continues to make huge profits through the IPL.
Plan B for IPL
Meanwhile, it is understood that the BCCI will decide on the IPL host country before the player auction takes place on February 12. At the moment, it is a toss-up between Sri Lanka and South Africa. Supposed the BCCI moves the event to South Africa, franchises believe it won't make much of a difference as they will be forced to use airports to juggle between cities. In Sri Lanka, they can avoid it as Colombo has three stadiums that can be put to use.