The group league stage of the Ranji Trophy will be played between February 16 and March 5.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has decided to go ahead with the tournament with eight groups of four teams each, the Board president Sourav Ganguly confirmed to  Sportstar .

The six-team plate group will be played simultaneously. Several BCCI officials confirmed that keeping the COVID-19 situation in mind, there has been a change in the venue as well.

According to the new schedule, group league matches will be played in Chennai, Ahmedabad, Thiruvananthapuram, Vadodara, Rajkot, Cuttack, Guwahati, Kolkata and Hyderabad.

Earlier, the BCCI chief Ganguly had said that the Board was "looking at a normal Ranji Trophy format, where we will have six groups, six teams in each group, and five matches." However, due to time constraint, the Board had to opt for a different plan - which  Sportstar  had reported on Sunday.

With the IPL scheduled to begin in Mumbai on March 27, the Board wanted to finish off the league stage latest by the first week of March, so that the players can join their respective IPL teams soon after the Ranji Trophy league stage.

The teams are expected to join their respective bio-bubble by early next week. Several state association officials have confirmed that they are yet to hear anything formally from the BCCI. The Board is expected to release the final schedule on Tuesday.

The Ranji Trophy was scheduled to start on January 13, but a spurt in COVID-19 cases forced the BCCI to put the tournament on hold. Now, with the situation improving across the country, the Board has decided to host the tournament in two phases - the league stage before the IPL and the knockouts post the franchise league.

With most parts of the country witnessing monsoons in June-July, the Board might have to host the knockouts in Bengaluru or Chennai.