India's 2020-21 domestic season might extend until June next year

Whether any domestic cricket takes place in India this season remains to be seen Hindustan Times via Getty Images

It looks increasingly likely that India's upcoming domestic season - which doesn't have a start date yet - could extend until June next year, with the BCCI's attempts to host the Ranji Trophy "a priority" and "at least one major tournament for women and at every age-group level" on the cards.

"We are trying to get as much of the domestic season in as possible. It's obviously impossible to start right away, and there's also the matter of the IPL going to UAE. But we are trying to get a schedule in place," a board official told ESPNcricinfo. "We will not be able to have everything this year, and we will only be able to start in November maybe. But the idea is to have a priority list of tournaments, and the Ranji Trophy is right on top of that list.

"Whether we hold it in its current form or a truncated version, we don't know yet. We don't even know how much of a window we will have. That will depend on when we can start and till when we can go on, if we have the next IPL on schedule in April-May."

A total of 2036 games, across various age groups in the men's and women's categories, were played during the 2019-20 season. In normal circumstances, the season would have started in July-August and run till around March. Since there won't be that much time this year, the BCCI is trying to work out a tweaked format, especially for the Ranji Trophy.

ESPNcricinfo understands that one of the options being considered is a zonal format. It could be that one city in each zone, which can provide three or four decent venues, might become the centre of all the action; but even then, it all remains "totally fluid". That aside, with Covid-19 numbers on the rise, the availability of hotels and much else is a worry. "It's impossible to confirm anything till we know all these things," the BCCI official said.

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That the domestic schedule could go completely haywire or could feature only a fraction of the regular number of games, was also a possibility.

"Hopefully, if we're able to find a level of cure or vaccine even towards the end of the year, we'll be in a position to be able to complete, even if not the whole domestic season, but large parts of it," Rahul Dravid, the National Cricket Academy boss, had said in a webinar hosted by Deccan Herald on Friday. "Obviously prioritising what that would be is important so that young boys and girls don't miss out on cricket for a year.

"The next domestic season, for a lot of our young domestic players - juniors, Under-16s, Under-19s and women cricketers - start in October. If we aren't able to get back to a level of normalcy from then - it could take longer - we'll see the real impact on our domestic cricket and grassroots cricket."

ESPNcricinfo also spoke to a number of state associations and all of them confirmed that they are yet to hear from the BCCI. It might be relatively easier to have the women's tournaments and the age-group tournaments, as they don't clash with the IPL quite as much as the senior men's events.

Sourav Ganguly, the BCCI president, said on Sunday that the Women's T20 Challenge, which takes place during the men's IPL "is very much on" for 2020. And even if there is another such event next year, during the 2021 IPL, the BCCI official ESPNcricinfo spoke to said, "the women's domestic schedule might be a little easier to organise, because we will have the IPL 2021 window to use, that's a two-month window almost".