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BCCI postpones Ranji Trophy to January 5 in revised national calendar


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The Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy will run from October 27 to November 22, while the Vijay Hazare Trophy will be held from December 1 to 29

BCCI has postponed the start of the 2021-2022 Ranji Trophy from November 16 of this year to January 5 of next year to ensure that the 38 participating teams have more time to prepare for red ball cricket. The move follows a request from several associations to have more time to prepare for the first first-class competition, which was suspended in 2020-21 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The competition will now end on March 20, 2022.

In a revised national calendar sent to state associations, the BCCI hosted the Vijay Hazare 50+ Trophy for much of the time that the Ranji Trophy was originally scheduled to take place. This means that both senior men’s white ball tournaments will take place before the first class season. The T20 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy which kicks off the senior men’s calendar will run from October 27 to November 22, with the Hazare Trophy taking place from December 1 to 29.

The women’s one-day competition, the original curtain-raiser of the season, will now begin on October 20, instead of September 21. This will be followed by a four-team Women’s Challenger Trophy, aimed at providing more playing time for top Indian players as well as marginal players ahead of the 2022 Women’s World Cup in New Zealand.

The national season will culminate with the CK Nayudu Trophy, which is now an Under-25 tournament instead of an Under-23. This decision will particularly benefit those players who have lost 18 months of cricket in the age bracket due to the pandemic. This tournament will be played from January 6 to April 2. Lately, the tournament has been seen as a staging post for the Ranji Trophy.

The format of the Ranji Trophy has been changed; disgruntled players
According to the revised schedule, the 38 Ranji Trophy teams will now be divided into six groups: five Elite (six teams each) and one Plate (eight teams). Each of the best in the Elite group will secure a direct entry into the quarter-finals. The teams ranked second from each of the five Elite groups and the first from the Plate group will play three pre-quarter-finals to decide between the other qualifiers.

While the format adds a competitive edge while making it more stylish, it also has a flip side. As per the previous schedule, the teams were split into three Elite groups and one Plate group, with the Elite teams having at least eight first-class matches, nine in the case of Plate.

The reduction to five league matches in the current format also potentially leads to lower revenues, unless the BCCI umbrella committee, formed to examine the issue of player compensation, announces a significant salary increase.

So far, players have also not heard from the board of deferred compensation for missed cricket in 2020-21.

Players under 19 get an extra year
In order not to deny players under 19 a chance to win the biggest prize in junior cricket – the Under-19 World Cup – the BCCI has guaranteed that players under-19 will be awarded a extra year to plead their case for the World Cup, scheduled to be held in the Caribbean early next year.

Under existing BCCI rules, a player can participate in Under 19 cricket for a maximum of four seasons. This rule has been changed to allow for a fifth season to ensure a kind of level playing field for players who have lost more than a year to the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the inclusion of the Vijay Merchant Trophy for boys under 16 removes any uncertainty around the tournament due to the lack of a vaccination program for under 18s. Although no date has yet been announced, the tournament is expected to take place in November-December 2021.

Cap on players, support staff
In an email to state associations, BCCI clarified that each team can have a maximum of 30 members, comprising at least 20 players. The number of support staff has been capped at ten. The teams were also asked to appoint a doctor, in addition to the regular staff ceiling, for problems and emergencies related to Covid-19.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo