By Khurram Habib
New Delhi, Oct 16 : The Indian domestic cricket season usually lasts from October to April. But a player representative on the Indian cricket board’s Apex Council says she would suggest at Saturday’s meeting that the 2020-21 tournaments could be played between February and December, if Covid-19 pandemic doesn’t allow the season to begin soon.
A February-to-September or February-to-December season has perhaps never happened, but if her suggestion is accepted it would be nothing short of a revolutionary change from set practice.
All types of hurdles, like weather, could crop up during a February-to-September season, if it were to be accepted by the Sourav Ganguly-headed Apex Council. Indian domestic season is among the agenda items for the meeting.
“I think age-group cricketers or women cricketers can lose interest and enthusiasm if they don’t get to play. So, I will suggest that they have the season from February till September, and could extend it till December, if required. Maybe, we can have this way for a couple of years; have tournaments at limited venues, and by creating a bio-bubble,” former India captain Shanta Rangaswamy, the female players’ representative on the council, told IANS.
“I am hopeful that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) office-bearers will look positively into it as it concerns cricketers,” she said.
While there are doubts that Ranji Trophy will be played, especially in its current format, there is a possibility that the BCCI may extend the current season till December next year and accommodate age-group and women’s competitions if it accepts the request of Shantha.
The Apex Council meets to discuss the possibility of domestic cricket this season as well as the forthcoming international tours, including India’s tour of Australia and England’s visit here.
Shantha will be suggesting to conduct at least age-group and women’s tournaments and extend the season to December next year, if required.
A couple of state associations’ officials IANS spoke to said that conducting Ranji Trophy may be difficult just now in the current format as it will be hard to create a bio-bubble in every state, many of which have different rules for quarantine on Covid-19, and the BCCI’s Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) leaves the responsibility of health of the players on state bodies and the player themselves.
“The main issue is that the Covid-19 situation isn’t stable. It is dynamic. The rules for quarantine for example, are different for every state. They also change. Permission from state and district authorities needs to be taken. It is also not that the numbers are going down. Also, the BCCI has left the entire responsibility on state bodies and have asked players to sign a consent form, there is doubt that the Ranji Trophy will take place in the current format,” said an official who is privy to the development.
Some states like Karnataka have strict rules and had taken extra precaution for visitors from states, considered hot spots like Delhi, Maharashtra and Gujarat. When Parthiv Patel went to Bangalore ahead of IPL, he had to be quarantined for seven days because Gujarat had been one of the affected states. India and RCB skipper Virat Kohli flew straight to the UAE from Mumbai and didn’t even go to Bangalore.
The Ranji Trophy features 38 teams, with each team playing between eight and nine games. The only option is to create a bio-bubble at four-five venues, and divide teams perhaps on zonal basis.
But that would mean teams being held up at a venue for one and a half to two months, depending on the size of the zone. Then finding hotel accommodation could also be a problem.
A one-day or T20 tournament can be managed better and wrapped up in 10-15 days, but having players for so long in a hotel-to-ground atmosphere for four-day games without a break can be taxing, officials believe. They feel even if one player tests positive in one venue, it can affect other players too.
Although Andhra Cricket Association will hold its T20 league between October 22 and November 8 in a bio-bubble created in Anantapur. It will have players from one state, unlike in Ranji Trophy where players from various states will come. Also, it will be just an 18-day affair and would probably help in eventually staging the national T20 Mushtaq Ali Trophy with the experience of the Andhra T20 league.
As of now, states are not having pre-season camps as the SOP given out by the BCCI is very hard to follow. A state body is required to take minute details, even check the roots of the players or where they have been, provide a separate sanitised room for each player, and take extra care in transport and food etc.
The players are doing their own fitness and in many cases following these instructions at home.