The BCCI has postponed the upcoming Ranji Trophy, the Under-25 CK Nayudu Trophy and the senior women's T20 league for the 2021-22 season because of the rising Covid-19 cases in India. The Ranji Trophy and CK Nayudu Trophy were set to begin this month whereas the women's league was scheduled to start in late February.
"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 secretary Jay Shah said in a release on Tuesday.
"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."
Board president Sourav Ganguly confirmed to ESPNcricinfo that the Ranji Trophy had been pushed back by "15 days." Ganguly himself had tested positive for Covid-19 a week ago and was hospitalised in Kolkata for a few days.
The men's domestic first-class competition was scheduled to start on January 13 at multiple venues across six cities: Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Thiruvananthapuram and Chennai.
But on January 3, it emerged that six Bengal players and their assistant coach had tested positive for Covid-19. Mumbai allrounder Shivam Dube and the team's video analyst had also tested positive prior to the team's departure for Kolkata, to add further doubt on the tournament's immediate future.
Last week, the board had also postponed the Under-16 Vijay Merchant Trophy, which was scheduled to begin in January 2022, following the fresh surge of Covid-19 cases and the growing threat of the Omicron variant.
Covid-19 cases have been multiplying in India in recent weeks with several states announcing night and weekend curfews, amid other forms of restrictions. West Bengal recorded 9,073 new Covid-19 cases in the latest single-day spike on Tuesday, Maharashtra 18,466 (including 10,860 from Mumbai), and Delhi 5,481.
The postponement of the Ranji Trophy has put the premier first-class tournament in a tricky situation because its final was scheduled for March 16 to 20 and the IPL usually starts by the first week of April. Postponing the Ranji Trophy by 15 days could further crunch the first-class tournament, whenever it takes off.
The Ranji Trophy was supposed to be held for the first time in two seasons, following its cancellation for the first time in its 85-year history in 2020-21 also due to the pandemic.
Recently, the BCCI had also started to disburse the match fees it owed to hundreds of domestic cricketers - male and female - for the numerous tournaments that had to be shelved due to Covid-19 in the 2020-21 season.
The senior women's T20 league was scheduled to start on February 28 to be played in Guwahati, Dehradun, Haryana, Lucknow, Pune and Puducherry.
The CK Nayudu Trophy was set to start a day after the Ranji Trophy, on January 14.