Earlier start to domestic season ‘unfair’ for most teams?

The Vijay Hazare Trophy is set to commence in September this year, before monsoon season ends; multiple players from various zones are extremely unhappy with such an early start.

Inter-State tournaments usually begin by October, but not this year.   -  Sandeep Saxena

With majority of the country experiencing consistent wet period due to the southwest monsoon, cricket comes to a virtual standstill from June to September in most parts of the country. No wonder then that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) conventionally begins the inter-State tournaments only in October. This season, however, there will be a drastic change in the fixtures.

While Duleep Trophy, the three-team first-class tournament, will be played in Dindigul from August 17, the inter-State action is set to begin as early as September 19 with players from 37 teams — including the nine newbies — participating in the Vijay Hazare Trophy one-day tournament. Multiple players from various zones are extremely unhappy with such an early start to the tournament.

Considering the sensitivity of the issue and the impending Supreme Court order on the administrative reforms, neither players nor coaches nor some of the State association officials were willing to speak on record. However, all of them admitted to Sportstar that such an early start was “unfair” to the teams since it will give “more than half of the teams no time to prepare before going into the season.”

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Western, eastern, north-eastern and parts of northern region in India witness extremely heavy rainfall till September end. As a result, some of the associations had opposed advancing Ranji Trophy from the last week of October to the first or second week in the last few years citing “lack of preparation” for their teams. This time around, though, a few coaches even joked that “perhaps the first outdoor training session for most teams will be in the first Vijay Hazare trophy match itself.”

‘Surprising’ attitude

“It gives a sense that the BCCI isn't really bothered if the players are under-prepared or matches get washed out in the premier one-day tournament. Such an attitude is surprising considering we would be months away from finalising India's combination for the next World Cup,” said a veteran coach, preferring anonymity.

The BCCI may have been facing the wrath of the State associations but one cannot but feel for the operations department, headed by former India wicketkeeper Saba Karim. After all, considering the addition of nine teams and ensuring that the domestic season is wrapped up 15 days before the start of the next year's Indian Premier League, the operations team had little option but to start the season early.

According to a BCCI insider, its priority while finalising the fixtures was to ensure most games would not be affected by the weather. Considering most of southern India experiences northeast monsoon from October to December, it would not be a tough task to shortlist four cities with multiple venues to host each of the four groups. But the teams can only keep fingers crossed for having at least some outdoor practice before entering the tournament.

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