What's the news
With the 2018-2019 Ranji Trophy season all set to begin by October this year, the Bord of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) faces a daunting task up ahead, as it has been decided that nine new teams will feature in the upcoming domestic season, making the total number of teams go up to 37.
Structural and logistical changes will have to finalised by the Indian Cricket Board in the weeks that follow.
In case you didn't know...
The Ranji Trophy was a two-tier 28-team event till last year, with teams divided into four groups of seven teams playing home-and-away fixtures against each other. The top two teams from each group qualified to the knock-outs, which were played as quarter-finals and later, semi-finals, followed by the final.
However, with more teams to be included, the number adding up to 37 which is an odd number, the BCCI faces an uphill task of completing its domestic calendar which starts post-monsoon.
Nine new teams will be added to the Ranji Trophy calendar, with six of them coming from the North East, making their first appearance after the Committee of Administrators (COA) gave the approving nod to expand the pool of teams for all of the board’s annual domestic tournaments.
This enables the likes of Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Sikkim, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Pondicherry to debut in the Ranji Trophy and other domestic tournaments in the 2018-19 season, while Bihar makes a return to the domestic circuit after nearly two decades.
The heart of the matter
The decision of implementation of fielding all states' teams was taken by the COA as part of recommendations made by the Lodha Committee, earlier this year. This will result in a massive restructuring of the entire domestic calendar, which will also expand in the process due to the inclusion of the new teams.
It is speculated that four groups A, B, C and D will be carved out. The "A" and "B" group will comprise top-ranked teams depending on their ranking in domestic cricket. The newer teams will be pooled in "C" and "D". The tradition of promotion and relegation will continue.
Another factor to worry about is the prospect of ground availability - whether as many grounds will be available for so many matches. The board and the COA have decided that the North-East teams which don’t have enough infrastructure, can play in other states and also avail the Railways’ facilities as and when needed since they boast grounds all across India.
Logistics can also pose a major challenge for the board the new teams coming in. Apart from senior teams, these nine new teams are meant to have various age-groups' teams as well, for under 23, under-19 and under-16 tournaments and so on. That would mean a drastic need of upheaval in terms of current team logistics.
The domestic season of 2018-2019 will kick off with the Vijay Hazare Trophy in early October this year, whereas the Duleep Trophy is likely to be played in Chennai from November.
The Ranji season also begins by mid-late October, and will prolong until January, 2019. The domestic events will feature several senior Indian players who have gone out-of-favour from the national side, as they will fight alongside upcoming youngsters for individual laurels as well as for a return to national colours.