The 83rd edition of the Ranji Trophy will begin on October 6 and will have the earliest final in the history of the tournament, with the match scheduled between January 7 and 11, 2017. Chhattisgarh are the only new side in the 28-team event and are the tenth team in Group C. They will make their first-class debut against Tripura in Ranchi in the first round.
Unlike in 2015-16, the limited-overs competitions - Vijay Hazare Trophy (50-overs) and the newly proposed inter-zonal T20 tournament for the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy - will be played after the Ranji Trophy.
India's domestic calendar that began with the Duleep Trophy on August 23 will culminate with the Deodhar Trophy, the 50-over competition that will be played in the same format as the Challenger Trophy, on March 29.
It is understood the delay in the announcement of domestic fixtures was due to the non-availability of MV Sridhar, BCCI' s general manager of cricket operations, who was overseeing preparations for the two Twenty20 internationals against West Indies in Florida.
The tournament will be played at neutral venues following a recommendation from the BCCI's technical committee headed by Sourav Ganguly. The move received a favourable response from captains and coaches at the board's annual conclave in Dharamsala in June. A majority felt such a decision was inevitable considering the quality of pitches during a few games in the previous seasons, and the failure of match officials to impose a penalty for this.
Defending champions Mumbai are in Group A, which also has last season's semi-finalists Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Railways. Last season's runners-up Saurashtra have been promoted to Group B and are placed alongside Assam, eight-time champions Karnataka and Delhi, who have won seven titles. Haryana and Andhra, the two relegated sides, will form the nucleus of Group C, along with Himachal Pradesh and Kerala.
The matches will be played across 40 venues, with Raipur and Belgaum being the two new additions. Bangalore is the only Test center that has not been allotted a game as the drainage facilities at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium are being upgraded.