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BCCI pushes for two home-season windows per year

ESPNcricinfo Ltd

As the ICC gets ready to fine-tune a schedule for the Test and ODI leagues next month, the BCCI has made it clear that any new international calendar would need to account for a fixed Indian home season, played across two windows: October-November and February-March.

In October, the BCCI - along with the other Full Members - approved in-principle a nine-team Test and 13-team ODI league, due to start in 2019 and 2020 respectively. Members have been working on drawing up a workable calendar for the leagues and, in December, board chief executives will meet to flesh out a week-by-week schedule at a workshop in Singapore.

Earlier this month, the BCCI invited Geoff Allardice, the ICC general manager (cricket) and the organisation's point man on scheduling discussions, to let him know these were the lines they were thinking along. Although it is the members who negotiate with each other and draw up the final schedule, the ICC facilitates the discussions.

"The BCCI's stance has been that these are our windows we will play at home," a BCCI member told ESPNcricinfo. "We have been building on this for a while now."

The BCCI has only started to push for a fixed home-season - the likes of which England and Australia have had forever - over the last four years, and specifically when N Srinivasan was board president. Srinivasan, however, wanted a home season stretching from October to March, followed by the IPL, which can stretch to nearly two months.

Since 2013 India have played nine Tests in February and March - eight Tests against Australia (in 2013 and 2017) and one against Bangladesh. Between 2014 and 2016 they did not play any Test series in these months. Historically, in 83 years since 1934, India has played 54 Tests at home in those months.

Since the 2011 World Cup, India have not hosted any ODIs in February or March. At most of these times, India have been playing away from home on tours to South Africa, Australia or New Zealand.

October-November is much more a fixed home-season for India. They have scheduled a Test series every year in those months since 2013; even in 2014 they were scheduled to play against West Indies but the series was abandoned. Nine Tests have been played over the last four years in these months and 31 ODIs; since 1934, they have played 93 Tests at home in October-November and 149 ODIs since they hosted their first in that period in 1981.

The real challenge for India over the last four-year cycle has been the long stretches where India play only at home or only away. Most of their major away-tours are now scheduled one after another in a span of 12 months; they had one stretch starting from November 2013 till February 2015, and another looms from December 2017 to February 2019.

Led by its chief executive officer, Rahul Johri, the BCCI is now keen on splitting the home season across two windows. And it is something Johri and the late MV Sridhar, who was the BCCI's GM (cricket operations), have stressed upon right from when discussions began on the leagues. The BCCI is happy to tour overseas during the rest of the year and outside of the IPL season, which now has an established window between April and May.

An official from another Full Member said he understood the BCCI's decision, given that other major teams had similar home seasons. Barring England, who have a home season spanning from May to September, other countries are happy to split their home seasons into shorter windows.

"It is completely logical," the Full-Member official said. "After the IPL they want to travel. And then they want to kick off the domestic season with Indian content. And then later in February-March they again want some home content. It is only fair. Lots of boards want a balance. They don't have five months of intense home cricket and then nothing for the next 12 months. And India have always been very clear about their aims and objectives."