Uncertainty over Duleep Trophy format

With the BCCI hierarchy suddenly devoting more attention towards squeezing in the mini IPL between the end of the tour to the West Indies and the beginning of the home series against New Zealand, it is likely that Duleep Trophy is compromised.

Prior to the national selection panel’s meeting in Pune on June 25, Sandeep Patil and his men had been originally assigned a task to pick five squads: India A for the tour to Australia and the four teams that are supposed to participate in the Duleep Trophy’s new avatar in August-September. However, at the start of the meeting, they had been told to hold their horses as far as the Duleep Trophy teams go.   -  R. Ragu

After a year-long hiatus, ever since the Duleep Trophy marked its return to the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI’s) for the forthcoming season, it has emerged as the most sought-after event on the domestic calendar. After all, the BCCI had announced that all the top players will feature in what would be the first floodlit first-class tournament in India. And the tournament format would deviate from the traditional inter-zonal structure to a battle between four teams handpicked by the national selectors in place of the traditional inter-zonal structure.

However, with the build-up to what will be a long season reaching its peak, there has been a growing uncertainty over the format for the tournament. With the BCCI hierarchy suddenly devoting more attention towards squeezing in the mini IPL between the end of the tour to the West Indies and the beginning of the home series against New Zealand, it is likely that Duleep Trophy is compromised.

Sportstar understands that the BCCI is still not sure about whether to hold a three-team or a four-team Duleep Trophy. Besides, there is no clarity over whether the floodlit tournament with pink balls will be played on a round-robin or knockout basis.

That the Duleep Trophy has been sidelined from the BCCI’s priority list was evident last week. Prior to the national selection panel’s meeting in Pune on June 25, Sandeep Patil and his men had been originally assigned a task to pick five squads: India A for the tour to Australia and the four teams that are supposed to participate in the Duleep Trophy’s new avatar in August-September. However, at the start of the meeting, the five wise men had been told to hold their horses as far as the Duleep Trophy teams go.

A BCCI official admitted that the mini IPL proposal, passed during the last week’s working committee meeting, has created a “problem of plenty” for the BCCI.

“Too many plans are being announced in haste, thus causing widespread confusion about the whole season. I just hope that the air is cleared at the earliest once the BCCI top brass returns from Edinburgh (the Scottish city which is hosting the ICC annual conference),” he said, citing anonymity.

It is understood that the Duleep Trophy team selection has been indefinitely deferred, despite the selectors reiterating that absence of top players will render the tournament meaningless.

The India A squad will be competing in Australia till September 18, thus making 18 top players unavailable for the tournament. On top of that, if the mini IPL is also squeezed in, the cream of Indian cricket will be unable to get a taste of pink ball cricket.