On Sunday, the BCCI told the state associations that the 2020-21 domestic season would start with the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, which is the domestic T20 tournament. There was no mention of the Ranji Trophy, which usually keeps several hundred domestic players busy during winter months. The BCCI has asked the states to "factor in" another tournament, which would be finalised only after the group stage of the Mushtaq Ali tournament.
Domestic cricketers, particularly those who don't feature in the IPL, have been greatly impacted as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic severely curtailing the cricket calendar. ESPNcricinfo spoke to a few senior players across teams when the BCCI was waiting for the boards to respond to know from them which tournaments they would prefer to play during the truncated domestic season. Here's what they had to say:
Faiz Fazal, Vidarbha captain: Given it's a T20 World Cup year and with the IPL auction in the pipeline, I would like to begin with the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20s and then move on to the Ranji Trophy. Beginning with T20s will allow players to get into the thick of things.
Parvez Rasool, Jammu & Kashmir captain: For players like me who don't have an IPL contract, the SMA T20s are a lifeline. Even one big impact performance for your team can boost your chances of being noticed by franchises. So I'd definitely like to start with the Mushtaq Ali T20s and then move on to the Ranji Trophy. The window is very limited, so maybe then [we] can look to have a zonal system this year and then stage the knockouts. I understand the number of matches each team plays will reduce, but having some form of first-class cricket is better than not playing at all.
Priyank Panchal, Gujarat captain: I have no preference, and I'll tell you why. After the previous season, one of my goals was to better my white-ball game. There were a few limitations to my batting in the shorter formats. So once the lockdown was lifted, I worked on a range of shots - like the ramp, scoop, paddle, short-arm jabs to deliveries banged into the pitch [and] my range hitting. The goal was to score consistently in the shorter formats, like I've done with the red ball. So if they plan to have the limited-overs options only, it'll be a chance for me to see how the work during the off-season has helped. If it's one of the 50-overs or T20 and Ranji Trophy, I'm fine with that too. The main thing is to get back onto the field.
Jalaj Saxena, Kerala allrounder: Personally, I'd pick the Ranji Trophy as first priority and then if time permits, look to conduct the Mushtaq Ali T20s. But the dynamics will vary now with the IPL auction. If auctions are there, then SMA T20s will be held first.
Abhimanyu Easwaran, Bengal captain: I'd prefer to have two tournaments - at least. For me, Ranji Trophy is really important. Obviously with the auction coming up, it [also] makes sense to have T20s. The more cricket we get, the better.