Mushtaq Ali Trophy to kick-start men’s domestic season, women to play 50-over and T20 events: Report

The Board of Control for Cricket in India is considering November 19 as the tentative date for start of the 2019-’20 men’s domestic season, reported PTI on Sunday.

The men’s domestic tournament for the shortest format — Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy — is expected to be the curtain-raiser which means Indian players in various Indian Premier League teams won’t be able to play first few rounds due to quarantine protocols in place. The final for IPL 2020 is scheduled for November 10.

According to ESPNCricinfo, the senior women’s cricket schedule will feature both 50-over and T20 tournaments, “albeit with fewer games than the 2019-’20 season, and is scheduled between November 1 and April 12.” The report added that in both Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and the women’s T20 league, 38 teams will be divided into six groups. Each group’s matches will reportedly be held on two grounds in one city.

The delay in the beginning of the domestic season due to Covid-19 pandemic means that only Mushtaq Ali trophy and Ranji Trophy (December 13- March 10) comprising of 245 games (across the formats with 38 teams) will be played.

In all likelihood, there will be no Vijay Hazare Trophy, Duleep Trophy or Challenger Series this year and as of now there is no provision for Irani Cup as well. That will mean that India’s male domestic cricketers are unlikely to play any 50-over cricket in the upcoming domestic reason according to the draft schedule.

“This is a tentative list that has been prepared and it has gone for approval of president Sourav Ganguly and secretary Jay Shah,” a senior BCCI official told PTI.

While this is a draft schedule, it is being asked how the Indian players, who will return from IPL, will play since they will have to be in a 14-day quarantine as per government rules.

“That’s an issue primarily for the uncapped players, who would be with the squad and would like to play some cricket. Now, even a player’s team is knocked out before play-offs, he won’t be back before November 3 and till November 17 will be in quarantine.

“For those whose teams are in play-offs and may reach finals, they will have to miss the first few rounds in that case. But again this is a draft proposal and there could be some tweaks in it,” the official said.

However with BCCI expecting to conduct the next IPL in India, starting end of March or early April, it is imperative that they keep a three-week window between Ranji final and beginning of IPL which will help the domestic stars recover after hectic tournament.

While there were speculations that Ranji Trophy will go back to the zonal format, the official said that it is out of question.

“The basic idea to stop of Zonal system was to ensure that there is uniformity in competition. So we will continue with our group league format but with a change,” he said.

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It is learnt that unlike the last two years where five teams with most points qualified from group A and B, this year, top two teams from group A, B and C (eight team groups) will qualify for quarter-finals. The seventh quarter-finalist team will be the best third placed team (in terms of quotient) from all three groups. The eighth team will be the winner of a play-off game between champions of group D (comprising minnows and relegated teams) and group E (six North East teams).

The 2020-’21 domestic season would have ideally started with Vijay Hazare in late August followed by Ranji Trophy, Duleep Trophy and Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. Last season’s Irani Cup was cancelled due to announcement of Lockdown 1.

(With PTI inputs)

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