BCCI secretary Jay Shah has announced the board's decision to conduct the Ranji Trophy in two phases in 2022. The first phase will involve group matches and the second phase, involving only knockout fixtures, will be held later in June.
The top brass of the BCCI converged after a heartfelt appeal from several state associations and even players. The pipeline of players breaking into the Indian team would also have been severely hampered had the competition been put on hold for the second year running. In an official statement, Jay Shah said:
"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. 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."
Initially scheduled to begin on January 13, the BCCI had decided to postpone the red ball competition after several state camps reported a COVID outbreak amid the emergence of the Omicron variant. With the country currently battling its third wave, there was no immediate decision taken over the fate of the tournament.
"Ranji Trophy is our most prestigious domestic competition" - Jay Shah
The Ranji Trophy is not expected to clash with the 15th edition of the IPL, which is touted to begin on March 27 and end in May. Jay Shah assured the BCCI views the tournament as a top priority and understands its importance to Indian cricket. Shah added:
"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."
Earlier, former head coach Ravi Shastri had warned the BCCI over their hesitance to come up with a solution to conduct the domestic tournament. In a tweet, he termed the competition "the backbone of Indian cricket".
"The Ranji Trophy is the backbone of Indian cricket. The moment you start ignoring it, our cricket will be SPINELESS," said the former Indian head coach.
Saurashtra are the defending champions of the competition, having defeated Bengal in the final two years ago.