Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
The announcement of BCCI's upcoming season, which includes a record 13 home Tests, with much fanfare in June exuded a sense of optimism in their planning. That the Duleep Trophy, shelved in 2015-16 owing to a busy international calendar, was set to be reintroduced in a new avatar in the pink-ball format, spelt out their intention to adapt to the winds of change. The idea of playing the Ranji Trophy at neutral venues to prevent home teams from tampering with pitches to suit their strengths was seen as a move to negate the unfair advantage.
Three months on, the BCCI is yet to make any headway into the domestic schedule. While they have cited the ongoing legal battles with the Lodha Committee for the delay in announcement of the fixtures, it can't be used as an excuse to draw public sympathy. ESPNcricinfo looks at all the talking points yet to be addressed with less than two weeks to go for the domestic season.
Unavailability of top players for Duleep Trophy
A majority of the 17-man Test squad in the West Indies is likely to be joined by MS Dhoni, the limited-overs captain, and a few others for the two T20Is against West Indies in Florida on August 27 and 28. The next rung of players, many of whom were a part of the national side for the limited-overs series in Zimbabwe in June, will be in Australia with the India A squad for the quadrangular one-day series followed by two four-day matches. That leaves the selectors with a very limited pool to choose from, which means the tournament, originally billed as the curtain raiser for India's upcoming Test season, will lose its significance even before a ball has been bowled.
Duleep Trophy format
There is no clarity on whether it will be a three or four-team affair. Originally scheduled to involve four sides, the BCCI may have no option but to whittle it down to three teams because of non-availability of big names and the A tour of Australia. There is also confusion over allotment of venues for the tournament. Scheduled to be played across three venues, the BCCI has reportedly zeroed in on Greater Noida, although an official or final decision is yet to be made.
Duleep Trophy with pink ball or red ball?
During the BCCI's inaugural conclave, which involved all its stakeholders in June, president Anurag Thakur stated emphatically that the feedback from top players would be considered before continuing their pink-ball trial. With the top players set to miss the tournament, there is now a question mark over that experiment. Furthermore, India won't be hosting a day-night Test against New Zealand as things stand, with the board announcing all games to be played during the series starting at 9.30am. The board is said to have received mixed responses from players who featured in the league final conducted by the Cricket Association of Bengal.
Ranji Trophy schedule
The proposal of the cricket committee to play all Ranji Trophy matches at neutral venues have been ratified, but everything else surrounding the competition has been left hanging. The schedule, normally announced in June-July, is yet to be unveiled. There is also confusion over how the tournament will be played out.
A hectic T20 schedule from January culminating with the World T20 at home in April forced the board to schedule the limited-overs tournaments - the Vijay Hazare Trophy (50-overs) and Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (T20) immediately after the group stages of the Ranji Trophy in 2015-16. It remains to be seen if the BCCI will adopt the conventional method of playing the first-class tournament followed by the limited-overs matches this season, given the Indian team is expected to play just a handful of T20s at home.
The Chhattisgarh State Cricket Sangh, which was an Associate member of the BCCI, was given Full Member status after a Special General Meeting in February this year, paving the way for their Ranji Trophy debut in the 2016-17 season. As things stand, they are slated for an entry into Group C, which will consist of 10 teams. What of Bihar, which has received full membership following a directive from the Supreme Court? While the Bihar Cricket Association is eligible to vote in the board elections and also feature in the domestic tournament, clarity from the BCCI on the matter is still awaited.