<
>

Ranji Trophy set to finish in March; Mushtaq Ali T20s gets pre-IPL auction window

The Vidarbha players pose with the trophy PTI

The Ranji Trophy is set to spill over into March, following the BCCI's decision to advance the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, the domestic T20 competition, prior to the IPL auction, which is generally held in December-January. As per the fixtures released for the 2019-20 season, the Ranji Trophy will begin on December 9, with the final slated from March 9, 2020. The Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, meanwhile, will run from November 8 to December 1.

At the conclave for domestic captains and coaches held in May, several captains were unhappy that the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy was being conducted after the IPL auction. They were of the opinion the existing schedule not only denied players opportunities to impress IPL talent scouts but also robbed the tournament of its relevance. The timing of some of these matches, too, raised a few eyebrows.

The much-debated Duleep Trophy, which was also being re-looked at for the lack of context, will kick-start the domestic season in the same format, running from August 17 to September 8. However, it's yet to be decided if the pink ball trial will continue at the tournament, as has been the case over the last three seasons.

The limited-overs competitions - the Vijay Hazare Trophy (50 overs), Deodhar Trophy (50 overs) and Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (T20s) - will follow the Duleep Trophy, before the first-class season begins.

The women's calendar, too, has no surprise additions, despite the call from senior state captains and coaches to include an additional inter-zonal 50-overs competition besides the existing 50-overs inter-state tournament. This, they felt at the time, would provide more match-time and help widen their talent pool.

However, with the Women's T20 World Cup in mind, the board has introduced the T20 Challenger Trophy in a new format, with each side playing the other two over two rounds followed by a final. In the previous avatar, each team played the other two over one round followed by the final.

The tweaked format could help the national selectors scout players for the national side that will then head to Australia for a T20I tri-series, also including England, which begins on January 31. This tournament will also serve as the team's build-up to the T20 World Cup, also to be held in Australia, from February 21 to March 8.