The BCCI's technical committee, chaired by the former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly, has recommended a revamp of the domestic calendar, including advancing the Duleep Trophy to the beginning of the season, playing the Ranji Trophy knockouts over five days and revising the points system in the case of incomplete matches where a team fails to take the first-innings lead.
These recommendations will come into play only after the board's working committee rubber-stamps them.
Under the rejigged domestic calendar, the season will begin with the Challenger Series, followed by the Duleep Trophy, Ranji Trophy, Irani Cup, and the one-day tournaments (Vijay Hazare Trophy and Deodhar Trophy), ending with the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (domestic Twenty20).
Playing the Duleep Trophy early will give it more relevance, it is believed. "The committee decided that tournaments should be played in the right perspective: playing the Irani Trophy immediately after the Ranji Trophy makes sense as the Ranji Trophy winner can play the Rest of India," Ratnakar Shetty, the BCCI's chief administrative officer, said.
Effectively, it will also help the selectors pick the Rest of India squad for the Irani Cup. At the moment, the Rest of India squads are picked on their performance in the previous season. In 2006, the BCCI had pushed the Duleep Trophy to the end of the domestic season because the administrators then felt that the Ranji Trophy was a better platform to select teams for the zonal tournament.
Bengal coach WV Raman said bringing Duleep back to the start of the season, as it was during his playing days for Tamil Nadu, was a positive step. "What this will do is allow players to play the duration games together," Raman said. "At the tail-end of the season playing Duleep gets a bit crazy. When the changes were made to push Duleep late in the season they were made with the view to make people play as a team to win and also play in a format where you learned to handle pressure. So if those objectives still remain then what better way than to get in to the Duleep Trophy straightaway."
Ganguly and his nine-man panel also discussed the BCCI working committee's proposal of playing the Ranji Trophy league phase at neutral venues. The idea was in response to the unresponsive pitches around the country, which, according to some, favoured the home team. But the panel felt carrying on with the existing home and away format in both the Elite and Plate groups was still appropriate.
Shetty said that more thought would be given to the matter before any decision was taken. "The technical committee will wait for the meeting of the captains and coaches sometime in March to collect more views. There is even a proposal to call coaches of the state Under-19 teams before arriving at a final decision."
Another talking point at the start of today's meeting was whether there would be a rethink of the points system in the Ranji Trophy, which currently awards teams for their first-innings lead. Aakash Chopra, part of the reigning Ranji champions Rajasthan, had been asked by Shetty to suggest improvements in the domestic cricket structure. One of his suggestions was changing the points system.
But the committee decided to retain the three points a team earns from gaining a first-innings lead. It did, however, recommend that the Ranji quarter-finals and semi-finals be played over at least five days instead of four to determine a winner. Under the existing rule, if no team gets a first-innings lead, the side batting second would have to play a minimum of 30 overs and then the run-rate would determine the winner. "That was a bit unfair. What was suggested was an additional day would be a better way forward," Shetty said.
"If a first-innings result is not obtained at the end of the scheduled play in a knockout match, the match will be extended into an additional day. If the two first innings are not completed even on this additional day, the winner will be decided by the spin of a coin," the committee's release said.
Also revised was the rule in case of an incomplete match where no team takes a first-innings lead during the league phase. Currently, if there was no weather interference, teams got no points. But under the new rule, they would get one point each. In case of a weather interruption, currently teams got two points each but the panel recommended no points should be given to either team.
Meanwhile it was decided to allow fast bowlers the use of two bouncers in an over in the one-day tournaments, effective from the 50-over Vijay Hazare Trophy, which starts from February 20. Kookaburra balls will continue to be used in the Duleep Trophy. In addition, host associations will be docked two points if its pitch is deemed "underprepared" by the match referee.