India's domestic season from 1 Jan: Ganguly
India's domestic season will get underway from 1 January, BCCI President Sourav Ganguly said on Saturday. He also said the BCCI has ‘elaborate plans’ for junior cricket and women's tournaments.
The BCCI's Apex Council met on Saturday to discuss the domestic calendar, which had been thrown in disarray by the surging COVID-19 cases in India.
"We have had extensive discussions on domestic cricket and we have tentatively decided to start the competitions from 1 January 2021," Ganguly told PTI from Dubai.
When asked if it would be a curtailed season or not, the former Indian captain said the Board won't be able to accommodate all domestic tournaments, given the situation with the pandemic.
"We will certainly have the full-fledged Ranji Trophy. [But] it will probably not be possible to hold all tournaments," Ganguly said, hinting that the BCCI was eyeing the January-March period for the Ranji Trophy. "We also have elaborate plans for our age-group and women's cricket. We will start with the Ranji Trophy and then we will also have the other tournaments between March and April."
To minimise travel, matches are likely to be organised in four different centres, one for each of the four groups (A, B, C and Plate). For example, Puducherry can host all teams in the Plate Group.
"Puducherry has six grounds and have offered to host. It can host the Plate Group games while the other Groups can play in three different centres. The main motive is to minimise travel for players," a BCCI official told PTI. "Bangalore also has a lot of grounds so it can be one option. Another option can be Dharamsala which has Bilaspur and Nadaun in its proximity."
Ganguly's words are likely to give State Associations clarity to prepare for their seasons. Most players have been training on their own due to the COVID-19 prevalence in India, though earlier this week, Uttarakhand became the first team to start training under one roof.
On the international front, the Indian team is expected to tour Australia in the 2020-21 season, to play three ODIs, three T20Is and four Tests. Ganguly indicated that players would be allowed to train when they are in Australia during their quarantine phase.
"Cricket Australia has sent us an itinerary and we discussed the modalities of that itinerary," Ganguly said. "We will be playing four Tests and that will end in the third week of January."
After returning from Australia, a home series against England is scheduled, but Ganguly said that no final call could be taken on schedules yet.
"The England series is good three-and-a-half to four months away," he said. "We still have time. We are monitoring the [COVID-19] situation, which is pretty fluid and will take a call accordingly."
Hosting the series against England in India (Ahmedabad, Kolkata and Dharamsala being the likely venues) remains a priority, but the UAE - where IPL 2020 is underway - is a second option for the Board.
A BCCI official added that holding all the T20Is and ODIs against England at two separate single venues was a possibility. Similarly, the Tests could be held in just two venues at the most to minimise travel.