More than 800 domestic cricketers who will miss out on a IPL contract in 2021 will be directly affected by the Indian board’s decision not to hold the Ranji Trophy, India’s premier domestic-class tournament, for the first time in its 87-year history.
Instead, the curtailed domestic calendar will see the Vijay Hazare Trophy ODI event staged in February, in a format similar to the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament, which ends with the Tamil Nadu-Baroda final on Sunday.
Earlier in January, in an Apex Council meeting, BCCI president Sourav Ganguly had expressed interest to have a curtailed Ranji Trophy this year. It is learnt a majority of the 38 state units were not willing to risk four-day cricket—the knockout games are played over five days—in a bio-bubble, given the logistical challenges.
“We are going to conduct the senior women’s one-day tournament simultaneously with the Vijay Hazare Trophy and follow it up with the Vinoo Mankad Trophy under-19,” BCCI secretary Jay Shah has said in a letter to the state units. “This has been decided after receiving your feedback on the domestic season.”
A total of 125 Indian players got IPL contracts last year, the cheapest being R30 lakh. For domestic players who rely entirely on match fees, Ranji Trophy pays them the most. Domestic white-ball cricket is a path to IPL. Players make R140,000 per Ranji match as match fees while they get R35,000 per Vijay Hazare game and R17,500 per match in Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.
“I hope the compensation they spoke of comes in. Our total earnings per year don’t touch R20 lakh,” said a domestic player, who did not wish to be named. “For those whose teams don’t make knockout rounds, it’s even less. With no Ranji Trophy, everyone who does not play IPL will be affected.”
In its December 24 AGM, BCCI had authorised office-bearers to “form a working group in order to compensate the players, match officials and others involved in cricketing activity if they are not able to participate due to cancellation of cricket matches/tournaments owing to COVID-19.”
The cancellation of Ranji Trophy will leave players without long-form cricket for at least 18 months. “It’s far from ideal,” a state head coach said. “The players will not only miss out on this season, but it will become extremely difficult for them next season after such a long break—both physically and technically.”
The spate of injuries Indian cricketers suffered in Australia is a case in point. Australian cricketers coming off some Sheffield Shield games seemed to have coped with the workload of Test cricket a lot better. The absence of Ranji and Duleep Trophy will also offer selectors no fresh crop to look at, or an avenue to judge those on a comeback trail for the five-Test series in England this August-September.
“It was always going to be a curtailed season. The decision was taken to best prepare our cricketers for the matches ahead,” a BCCI official said. “Vijay Hazare will help those playing IPL to stay in touch. The women’s ODI domestic tournament is keeping in mind the ICC ODI World Cup next year. The Vinoo Mankad U-19 is to help preparations for the U-19 World Cup next year.”
Indian Cricketers’ Association president, Ashok Malhotra, said: “From the point of view of livelihood, Ranji Trophy is very important. I am hopeful BCCI devises some compensation package for the players. But in terms of organising a four-day tournament in a bio-bubble, I think it would have been too long a time for the players and all concerned. It becomes very challenging mentally.