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BCCI's Ranji plan: League phase in Feb-March, knockouts in June

Jay Shah says "absolutely necessary" to conduct and safeguard premier domestic tournament which was cancelled last year

The victorious Saurashtra players, Saurashtra v Bengal, final, Ranji Trophy 2019-20, 5th day, Rajkot, March 13, 2020

The Ranji Trophy was not held in the 2020-21 season  •  ESPNcricinfo Ltd

BCCI secretary Jay Shah confirmed that the board had decided to hold the Ranji Trophy in two phases, split by the IPL. The first phase, in February-March, will have all league matches, while the knockout games will be held in June.
Earlier, the tournament was scheduled to start on January 13 but had to be postponed indefinitely because of rising Covid-19 cases in the country.
"The board has decided to conduct the Ranji Trophy this season in two phases. In the first phase, we plan to complete all matches of the league stage while the knockouts will be held in June," Shah said on Friday. "My team is working closely to mitigate any kind of health risk caused by the pandemic, while at the same time ensuring a highly competitive red-ball cricket contest. The Ranji Trophy is our most prestigious domestic competition, which has been providing Indian cricket with an enviable talent pool every year. It is absolutely important that we take all necessary steps to safeguard the interest of this premier event."
In a letter to state associations, Shah further said that "the decks have been cleared" and the BCCI was all set to conduct the Ranji Trophy. Shah also said that recovery rates from the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic were encouraging, but the BCCI would continue to have biosecure bubbles for the tournament to mitigate any risks.
"Ever since the decision on postponement was made, the board was working on several models to ensure that the tournament takes place as soon as the environment is safe and conducive," Shah wrote. "We will continue to have biosecure bubbles to mitigate any potential risk. The board is committed to providing a healthy and secure environment and seeks your support in ensuring a safe tournament for all our key stakeholders."
He also said that the grouping, structure and venues for the Ranji Trophy would be conveyed soon to state associations.
Shah's confirmation comes a day after BCCI treasurer Arun Dhumal had indicated that the board intended to hold the Ranji Trophy 2021-22 in two phases.
With the BCCI planning to start the IPL from March 27, it is practically impossible to hold the Ranji Trophy in one go, but after requests from many state units, the brass had held a meeting to discuss the way forward.
"We are exploring the possibility of staging Ranji Trophy, cases were going up when it was postponed, now they seem to be coming down," Dhumal told PTI after the meeting. "The operations team is working on whether we can do the league stage next month and complete the rest of the tournament later [post IPL].
"The operations team will work out the logistics and factor in the weather, venue availability as well as availability of players. We are very keen to organise the tournament and that is why we are exploring all possibilities to stage it without compromising players' safety."
The meeting was also attended by BCCI president Sourav Ganguly and Shah.

Our cricket will be spineless without Ranji Trophy - Shastri

Meanwhile, former India coach Ravi Shastri came out strongly in support of holding the Ranji Trophy, saying it formed the backbone of Indian cricket, which would be left spineless if the competition did not take place.
The pandemic played spoilsport last season as the BCCI only held the two men's white-ball tournaments - Vijay Hazare Trophy and Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.
The BCCI paid 50% of the earlier match fees as compensation to all first-class cricketers who have endured financial losses.
If it is not held this year, it will severely affect the BCCI's pathways cricket like India A team, which is primarily selected on the basis of Ranji Trophy performance.