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BCCI to conduct 900 domestic matches in 6 months, scraps 50-year-old Duleep Trophy

The BCCI will conduct 900 domestic matches in six months during its 2015-16 season and the casualty of the packed schedule of domestic and international cricket is the more than half-a-century-old Duleep Trophy inter-zonal competition, which has been given a break for the first time since its inception for the upcoming season

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) will conduct 900 domestic matches in six months during its 2015-16 season, according to its tournament fixtures released on Monday and the biggest casualty of the packed schedule of domestic and international cricket is the more than half-a-century-old Duleep Trophy inter-zonal competition, which has been given a break for the first time since its inception by the Cricket Board for the upcoming season.

It's not clear whether the tournament, which since its inception had served as a virtual selection trial to pick the Indian teams for home and away Test rubbers in days gone by, will be resurrected in the next 2016-17 season.

The BCCI's 2015-16 domestic calendar, released today by the Indian cricket board, boasts that it will host 900 matches in the span of six months starting October 1.

The season will start from October this year and end on March, 2016, in the build-up to the 2016 World Twenty20 tournament, which will be played in India after the completion of the domestic season.

Ali Murtaza
Central Zone's Ali Murtaza (second from right) celebrates after his team won the Duleep Trophy with a thrilling nine-run triumph over South Zone in November 2014. Pic/PTI

The Deodhar Trophy will be played on a three-team format comprising the champions of the Vijay Hazare tournament and two other teams, which will be selected by the selectors.

The Ranji Trophy will begin on October 1, the Vinoo Mankad Trophy for men's Under-19 will begin on October 1, the women's U-19 One-Day competition will begin on September 20, the C.K. Nayudu Trophy for U-23 will begin on October 10 and the men's U-19 Challenger will begin on October 28.

The men's U-19 Cooch Behar Trophy will begin on November 5, the men's U-16 Vijay Merchant Trophy will commence from December 1, the senior men's One-Day tournament will begin from December 8, the Vijay Hazare knock-out tournament for senior men will begin on December 21, the Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy for senior men will begin on January 15 and the senior men's Irani Cup will be on March 6.

A new Under-19 Challenger tournament has been introduced in the junior level in 2015 which will feature three teams selected by the junior national selectors and provide yet another opportunity to all the players to perform, before the national squad is selected for the Under-19 World Cup, to be played in Bangladesh in January.

Unlike in previous seasons, there is also a huge two-month gap between the conclusion of the Ranji Trophy league phase (Dec 4) and the commencement of the knock out stage (February 3). This has been apparently done to accommodate various limited overs competition run by the BCCI such as the One-day Inter-State league, Deodhar Trophy - both played over 50 overs - and the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 championships.

The Ranji Trophy concludes on February 28 followed by the Irani Cup between the national champions and the Rest of India from March 6-10 which also marks the end of the domestic season.

Starting this year, the senior men's One-Day and the Twenty20 tournaments will be played on group basis (like Ranji Trophy) and not on intra-zonal basis. Being the first time, the teams have been divided into four groups and these groups have been made based on the last year’s performance in the respective tournaments.

"This year we have re structured the domestic schedule based on our international commitments and ensure that all our players will get an opportunity to participate and perform, thereby improving their chances of being selected for our national teams," BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur said in a release.

"We are releasing the schedule well in advance so that our state associations and teams have enough time to plan and prepare for the forthcoming season. We do recognise that domestic cricket is of paramount importance and BCCI will continuously strive to improve the standards and ensure that the foundations of Indian cricket are further strengthened," Thakur said.

Importance of Duleep Trophy in Indian cricket

But the packed schedule of domestic and international cricket sees the more than half a century-old Duleep Trophy inter-zonal competition being given a break for the first time since its inception by the Cricket Board for the upcoming season.

The BCCI's 2015-16 domestic calendar has discarded for the first time the inter-zonal competition after it was started in 1961-62.

The tournament had been conducted to perpetuate the memory of K S Duleepsinhji, nephew of K S Ranjitsinhji in whose memory the national cricket championship is being played.

It's not clear whether the tournament, which since its inception had served as a virtual selection trial to pick the Indian teams for home and away Test rubbers in days gone by, will be resurrected in the next 2016-17 season.

The BCCI release is totally silent about the axing of such a prestigious tournament in the upcoming season.

Even the BCCI, in its Statistical Annual that has now been discontinued, mentions the importance of Duleep Trophy by stating that it "serves as a useful guide to the form of

cricketers when a Test side for a domestic series has to be selected or a team for an overseas tour is to be chosen."

A prime example of someone who benefited by doing well in the tournament is Ajit Wadekar, under whose captaincy India made history by winning their first-ever Test series in 1971 in the West Indies and England successively.

The stylish left hander was picked as one of the probables for the first time against the visiting Gary Sobers-led West Indies side after his classy century (103) for West Zone in the 1966-67 final against South Zone - led by M L Jaisimha with then India skipper Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi playing under him - at the Brabourne Stadium here.

Wadekar had invariably failed when the selectors were watching - despite scoring runs by the ton when they were not - prior to this superb hundred against a bowling attack comprising Abid Ali, Erapalli Prasanna, Bhagwat Chandrasekar and Srinivas Venkataraghavan.

Even after his classy ton Wadekar was not picked in the probables list and it needed persistent grilling by sports scribes of that generation to convince the then selection panel chief Datta Ray to include him as the 37th and additional probable.

Wadekar made his debut along with another future captain, Clive Lloyd of the West Indies, in the same Brabourne Stadium Test match and scored a superb half century and then had a continuous run before he had to quit the game in the aftermath of public fury over the 3-0 whitewash in England in 1974.

In those days, when international cricket around the world was at a premium, venues like the Brabourne Stadium used to attract crowds in excess of 25,000 for Duleep Trophy games.

The concept of inter zonal competition itself had been tried out in 1945-46, and discarded after three years, by the BCCI to replace the communal Pentangulars.

The idea was revived when the Board decided to institute a trophy in memory of Duleepsinhji, who like his legendary uncle Ranji, had played all his cricket in England and even represented England in Tests - when he died in 1959 in Mumbai.

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