Duleep Trophy restored, to be played with pink balls again

Which pink ball would you like? Getty Images

Four days after striking the Duleep Trophy off the 2017-18 domestic calendar, the BCCI has been forced to reverse its decision and restore it. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) asked the board to retain the tournament in the itinerary of the upcoming season as it was an "important" competition.

"We were told that Duleep Trophy was not in the [domestic] schedule, but we thought it is an important engagement and should not be dropped so we have asked them to restore it. And, it has been restored," CoA chairman Vinod Rai told ESPNcricinfo. According to a BCCI official, the CoA had asked the BCCI technical committee, which is led by former India captain Sourav Ganguly, for details on why the tournament was originally scrapped, but Rai denied that the CoA had sought anything from Ganguly's panel. PTI published contents of a letter which, it said, was written by Ganguly to BCCI general manager (operations) MV Sridhar, stating the tournament was supposed to be played with pink balls again.

"I am reading in the media that Duleep Trophy has not or may not take place this season," Ganguly was quoted as having written. "I don't know [if] that's true or not but if you remember, the members of the technical committee had agreed to use pink balls again for the Duleep matches and the tournament was supposed to be held in the same format as last year."

The decision to restore the tournament represents a dramatic shift in the BCCI's position in the matter of a few days. On August 25, a BCCI official had told ESPNcricinfo that the tournament was deferred to the start of the next season given India's packed calendar that will see them play 20 limited-overs games from September to December. He had also said the Duleep Trophy wasn't necessarily an annual fixture and was conducted in a year-and-a-half cycle.

"The Duleep Trophy takes 24 days [to finish], and with such a long season and with all venues being occupied - obviously we can't do it in June or July - we had only September," he had said. "And, this year we are starting the international season on September 17 which means the team would assemble on September 10 or 11."

On Tuesday, while the official denied that the board received any letter from Ganguly, he said the tournament was "always on [this season]". "I don't know who thinks it is not happening," he told ESPNcricinfo. "It will [take place at the] start of the season - before the [Ranji Trophy] season - and it will overlap [with the] international series [against Australia]."

With India's limited-overs series against Australia scheduled to begin on September 17, the window for the Duleep Trophy is likely to be smaller than last year.