Ranji Trophy: BCCI expected to finalise schedule, venues on Tuesday

In an evolving COVID-19 situation, the BCCI will also have to finalise the format of the tournament, which is supposed to be held in two phases - the league stage in February and March and the knockouts in June and July.

Sourav Ganguly

Sourav Ganguly at the BCCI headquarters in Mumbai.   -  PTI

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is expected to finalise the schedule and venues for the Ranji Trophy by Tuesday.

In an evolving COVID-19 situation, the Board will also have to finalise the format of the tournament, which is supposed to be held in two phases - the league stage in February and March and the knockouts in June and July, after the Indian Premier League. 

BCCI president Sourav Ganguly had told Sportstar on Friday there was no plan to tweak the format. “We want to start the Ranji Trophy by mid-February... by the 13th. As of now, we are looking at a normal Ranji Trophy format, where we will have six groups, six teams in each group, and five matches. That will take us one month to finish the first phase, just before the IPL,” Ganguly had said.

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Change in format?

However, this publication understands that after deliberations over the last couple of days, the Board top brass is also exploring another option - dividing the elite sides into seven groups, with each featuring four teams. The north-east teams could be divided into two separate groups. While each team could play only three matches in the group stage, a total of 16 teams will qualify for the pre-quarterfinals, which will be held post the IPL.

This is being considered due to the time constraint. With the IPL scheduled to begin in Mumbai on March 27, the Board plans to finish off the league stage by March 10-11, so that the players can join their respective IPL teams soon after the Ranji Trophy league stage.

“There is not much time left, so to make sure that both the Ranji Trophy and the IPL are held smoothly, the office-bearers and the BCCI logistics team are exploring several options. There are a few ideas they are discussing and a final decision should be taken in a day or two,” a BCCI insider said, adding the office-bearers are expected to meet late on Monday and Tuesday to finalise a suitable option.

“We also need to ensure there is enough recovery time for the players. So, a suitable decision will be taken keeping everything in mind.”

The tournament was earlier held in six centres – Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Thiruvananthapuram, and Chennai. Kolkata was scheduled to host the knockouts.

“We will look at the venues. We will also look at the number of COVID-19 cases in those venues. At this moment, centres like Bengaluru and Kerala have a lot of COVID-19 cases. We will discuss everything and can get a clear picture by Monday,” Ganguly had said.

With Mumbai hosting the IPL, chances are high those matches could be shifted to other venues like Rajkot, Cuttack and Hyderabad.

Several state association officials, Sportstar spoke to, confirmed that they are yet to hear anything formally from the Board. "We have started training with the red ball. There is not much time, so efforts are being taken to get the team ready for the Ranji Trophy. So far, we have not heard anything about when the players need to enter the bubble," a state association official said.

The Ranji Trophy, initially scheduled to begin on January 13, was postponed because of the rise in COVID-19 cases across the country. Several other tournaments – including the women’s tournament and the knockouts of the Cooch Behar Trophy – were put on hold.

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