The regional Ranji Trophy in India has been delayed due to a countrywide spike in coronavirus infections, the country's cricket board announced in a statement. Following the tournament's discontinuation last season, the postponement would put doubt on the chances of the primary domestic first-class championship for the 2021-22 season as well.
The top-tier competition was named after Maharaja Ranjitsinhji, an Indian royal who represented England in the 1890s was scheduled to begin on January 13 later this month.
The long-format tournament and the February Twenty20 women's league were both postponed indefinitely on Tuesday when six members of the Bengal team, including five players, and a few Mumbai players tested positive for the coronavirus. It was to be held in six cities: Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Thiruvananthapuram, and Ahmedabad.
Board of Control for Cricket in India released a statement, addressing the health concerns: “BCCI does not want to compromise the safety of the players, support staff, match officials and other participants involved and hence, has decided to put the three tournaments on hold till further notice. The BCCI will continue to assess the situation and take a call on the start of the tournaments accordingly.”
"BCCI thanks and continues to appreciate the efforts of the healthcare workers, state associations, players, support staff, match officials and all the service providers who put their best foot forward to host more than 700 matches across 11 tournaments in the current 2021-22 domestic season,” it added.
The preceding season of the Ranji Trophy was also canceled owing to the pandemic, making it one of several sports matches worldwide hampered by the virus. For the past two seasons, the Indian Premier League T20 tournament has been held in the United Arab Emirates as a result of COVID-19 concerns.
Responses from players
On Tuesday, Indian health officials confirmed 58,000 new coronavirus cases, twice the amount recorded three days before.
With the current season suspended yet again, India pacer Jaydev Unadkat resorted to Twitter to voice his frustration at not being able to play red-ball cricket.
“Dear red ball, please give me one more chance.. I’ll make you proud, promise!” Unadkat tweeted.
When Shardul returned to the post-day press conference after his seven-for at the Wanderers, he was asked about the Ranji Trophy delay and how it would affect national bowlers.
“I feel for them. But you also have to look at the Covid scenario in the country. With the cases rising and we have so many domestic teams playing, it might not be easy to manage all the teams and to have a tab on each and everyone. So, I think right now whatever the Board has decided must be right. That’s why they have taken the decision,” said the domestic cricket thoroughbred in an interview, voicing his support for the BCCI’s decision.
For this season's Ranji Trophy, the BCCI modified the system, splitting Elite teams into five groups and adding matches in the Plate Group.
Last season, the BCCI granted player compensation after domestic competitions were forced to cancel due to Covid. The Board also agreed to raise match fees for men's and women's cricket players of all ages.