MUMBAI: The BCCI has taken a call to not host the Ranji Trophy this season, owing to the unrelenting pandemic. The board, which is in the middle of hosting the Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament at the moment, will make efforts to conduct the Vijay Hazare one-dayers in February.
The Board is also taking steps to host a T20 tournament for women in the same month.
These decisions were taken during Sunday’s Apex Council meeting, held via tele-conference. The decision to not host the Ranji – a difficult one at that, considering BCCI president Sourav Ganguly wanted the tournament to go ahead – comes in the backdrop of Covid-related issues.
“We’re just being practical. Let’s face it – the pandemic still hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s here and our lives continue to remain dispossessed by it. There are 38 First Class teams and a bio-bubble of that degree is simply not possible,” say those in the know.
In the absence of any red-ball cricket, the BCCI will find ways to suitably pay the cricketers and all others who participate in the domestic circuit in various capacities every season by coordinating with the respective state associations.
The Ranji Trophy, held every year between October and February (depending on the schedules), happens to be the biggest source of income for First Class cricketers in the country.
The Mushtaq Ali T20 is scheduled to end on January 31, following which the Vijay Hazare one-dayers will begin. The schedule is expected to be out within the next two weeks.
To host any domestic cricket or not this year was always going to be a major challenge for the BCCI, considering it had successfully hosted the eight-team Indian Premier League (IPL) in the UAE without any hassles. “The overriding fear was about giving the impression that the BCCI was comfortable hosting the IPL but not Ranji. That the BCCI was comfortable shifting the IPL to another country, but not any other domestic tournament. The fear that accusations like “step-brotherly treatment is being meted out to the First-Class cricketers vis-à-vis the IPL cricketers” would become an issue.
Contemplation clearly took its own time before the BCCI ended up arriving at the right decision.
The IPL happens to be a business model, one that functions on the basis of a defined and sustained annual revenue pool. “Not hosting the IPL would’ve amounted to damages caused to the game’s financial ecosystem – one that goes a long way in funding every other segment of India’s vast domestic circuit. There were potential legal and commercial ramifications to consider,” industry executives say.
The Ranji, on the other hand, is more a product carved from the history of the game and a tournament that caters to India’s perennial red-ball aspirations – one that is bearing fruit on the tour of Australia where a second and third-string squad is busy giving the full-fledged Australian team a tough time.
“That’s what the Ranji does. It produces red-ball talent year after year. That’s an area where Indian cricket has been hit, no doubt. But as much as we love our red-ball cricket, we also need to fear the horrors of this pandemic that has already done much damage. Let us hope that we have a long and healthy Ranji and Duleep Trophy next season, and relief from all this Covid-related mess in days to come,” is how a senior BCCI official puts it.
Mushtaq Ali, for the record, had its own share of Covid-related fears in Kolkata and Chennai just before the start of the tournament. “Indian cricket cannot afford a large-scale worry of that sort,” sources say.