The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president Sourav Ganguly has defended the board for its failure to host the Ranji Trophy in the last two years. He admitted that the domestic competition is the "most important" in India and attributed the issues to the pandemic, saying it's a "challenge" to organize any tournament in the current situation.
The annual red-ball tournament was canceled for the first time in 87 years in 2020-21 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, putting a massive strain on the lives of domestic cricketers, officials, and other stakeholders. It looked set for another cancelation this year, too, before pressure from the fraternity fast-tracked a turnaround.
The BCCI will now host the tournament in two phases - the league stage before IPL 2022 and the playoffs after the opulent tournament.
Speaking to Sportstar, Sourav Ganguly said:
"Obviously, we missed one year of Ranji Trophy – the 2020-21 season. It is the most important tournament in India, and we always wanted to organise it. But what the world has seen in the last two years, I don’t think it has happened in anybody’s lifetime. So keeping all these things in mind, it was actually a challenge to organise any tournament."
The former India captain said he's keeping his fingers crossed to see the tournament proceed smoothly. Sourav Ganguly added:
"We organised the Cooch Behar Trophy and there came the third wave. On the first day itself, 50 players contracted the virus. So, it is not easy. But we are lucky that we can still conduct tournaments. We still have our fingers crossed that everything goes smoothly."
The league stage is likely to begin on February 16 and continue until March 5, according to media reports. Nine cities - Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Trivandrum, Cuttack, Chennai, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Baroda and Rajkot - and nine separate bio-secure bubbles will be used to host the 38-team competition.
"We thought the best option was to increase the match fee" - Sourav Ganguly on the contract system
Sourav Ganguly also defended the BCCI for the non-materialization of a contract system for first-class cricketers which he promised at the start of his tenure.
He said the board didn't go for it last year at the suggestion of state associations. He also pointed to the BCCI's restructured payment slabs and hikes in match-fees, saying they have "compensated the players almost double".
Sourav Ganguly said:
"[Last year] we did not go the contract way because that was suggested by the State associations. But you must have noticed that we have created payment slabs as we did for the Ranji Trophy. We have increased the money to almost double, so their salaries have increased almost twice. So, we have done that. We thought the best option was to increase the match fee. Just like it happens in the contract system, if you play a certain number of matches, you get paid a certain amount of money. We have created that slab, but we have compensated the players almost double."
The next mega event lined up for the BCCI is the IPL 2022 auction, which will be held on February 12-13 in Bengaluru.