The BCCI has made it mandatory for all domestic IPL players to appear for their domestic teams in the zonal leagues of the domestic Twenty20 championship rather than joining their franchises for IPL preparations. A circular explaining the decision has been issued to all 27 affiliates of the BCCI.
The five zones will stage their respective Twenty20 league from March 30 to April 5. However, with the IPL set to start in the UAE from April 16, most of the franchises were hoping to get the players assembled for preparatory camps. While the West Zone league will be played in Mumbai from March 30, Central Zone teams will compete in Nagpur from March 31. North, South and East Zone leagues will start in Chandigarh, Vijayawada and Kolkata, respectively from April 1.
"We have informed the affiliates that no player can skip the zonal T20s and join a franchise for IPL preparations instead," Ratnakar Shetty, BCCI's general manager - game development, said.
While the move will bolster the state teams and avoid the IPL overshadowing the domestic T20 league, it will be a setback for the franchises. Following the full auction, most teams will enter the IPL with totally revamped squads. The IPL team coaches were hoping to spend more with the new players ahead of the tournament. "Ideally, we would like players joining us three weeks before the season starts," an IPL team's support staff member said. "But it would be good in a way that the players will be playing competitive games."
The state teams who will make it for the Super League for the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, to be played in Mumbai and Rajkot from April 8, will have to do without their IPL players. The top two teams from each zone qualify for the Super League. "Most teams would leave for UAE around a week before the IPL starts, so we can't make it compulsory for the players to play the Super League," Shetty said.
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo