DRS likely in 2019-20 Ranji Trophy season

Pujara walks off to applause Getty Images

The BCCI conducted a conclave for domestic captains and coaches in Mumbai on Friday, to discuss the shortcomings and takeaways from the 2018-19 domestic season. A number of proposals were put forward to "better the domestic game" ahead of the upcoming season. ESPNcricinfo looks at the major talking points:

Will we finally see DRS in the Ranji Trophy?

The implementation of DRS for the Ranji Trophy knockouts could soon become a part of the rulebook, after the proposal received unanimous backing from the captains and coaches. The initial proposal is to have it for all televised games, but a number of teams are unhappy with the randomness of assigning televised games.

Why has the DRS suddenly come into focus?

The umpiring standards have been in question for a while. A spate of umpiring controversies during the 2018-19 season, including in a contentious semi-final between Karnataka and Saurashtra, led to a public outburst by a number of players and coaches who called for the usage of DRS "at least for the knockouts."

Cheteshwar Pujara was at the centre of that umpiring controversy at the time, with replays, without the aid of Hotspot or UltraEdge, proving inconclusive if the sound was through an outside edge. On 34 then, Pujara went on to make a century as Saurashtra pulled off a win to qualify for the final.

What about the umpiring itself?

Match referees will now evaluate on-field umpires and present a report at the end of every game to the umpiring committee. Under the earlier system, a committee used to examine the video feeds from every match to study umpiring decisions. The evaluation report by the match referees will present details about decisions made, accuracy, consistency or inconsistency of calls and will grade umpires on a number of parameters, including responsiveness under pressure. In addition, match referees will also serve as Talent Identifiers, and provide feedback on players to both the junior and senior selection committees.

Will there be any tweaks to the domestic calendar?

The board is mulling over the future of the Duleep Trophy, which has veered towards irrelevance in recent years. Once a springboard for national honours, the tournament has moved away from a zonal format and has been used as a vehicle for experiment in recent years.

Why has the Duleep Trophy become irrelevant?

In 2016-17, the BCCI tested the feasibility of pink-ball cricket under lights, a move that garnered mixed response from players. In 2018-19, the tournament clashed with the Quadrangular series between India A, India B, Australia A and South Africa A, which effectively ruled out 30 of India's top players outside the national team.

This meant "making up the numbers" as one of the selectors put to balance out squads that were altered as late as two hours before the toss. "Since doing away with the zonal format, there is no sense of belonging or identity for the tournament," a current state captain said.

"Who even connects with India Red, India Blue or India Green? Two weeks later, players who played in the tournament couldn't remember their own team-mates. It's pointless for players, officials and even the broadcasters. One day you are part of Red, next morning you find out you are in the other side. Because there is no sense of belonging, these games are invariably played on flat decks, and this only serves to inflate average."

Are players happy with the timing of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy?

A number of captains were unhappy that the domestic T20 competition was being conducted after the IPL auction. They felt this not only denied players opportunities to impress talent scouts but also rob the tournament of its relevance. The timing of some of these matches too raised a few eyebrows.

"What is the point of 9am starts for T20s?," a captain argued. "Dew was so heavy in Indore, surfaces were damp and invariably captains winning the toss would bowl, and this impacted results. If you're having games, at least ensure an afternoon start, even if you don't want to use floodlights. This will at least make it balanced."

Was there any other recommendation that seemed out-of-the-box?

In a move to prevent teams from doctoring pitches to suit their strengths, there were discussions on the possibility of doing away with the toss and having the visiting captain decide. However, these talks are still at a nascent stage and is "unlikely to be implemented soon."

What was the major bone of contention at the women's conclave?

A number of captains raised the issue of multi-day cricket, a format that is non-existent under the current system. The BCCI, however, isn't keen on mulling over the possibility just yet as they want to be in line with ICC's vision of promoting women's cricket through the limited-overs format. This will effectively spill over to the international arena as well, meaning it is unlikely Mithali Raj will add an 11th Test appearance to her two-decade long career.

Does this mean more limited-overs games for the women?

Few of the senior coaches and team officials wanted the BCCI to explore the possibility of reintroducing the limited-overs inter-zonal format upon the completion of the existing T20 and 50-over competitions, which are now divided into four groups with each side playing eight games. The Indian board, however, is looking at possibly adding one or two more teams to the existing three-team Challenger Trophy to widen their pool and give opportunities to more players.

Will we finally see a full-fledged women's IPL next year?

Senior players and coaches have unanimously given a thumbs-up to the Women's T20 Challenge held in Jaipur. The board has also been encouraged by the response and has initiated discussions on converting it into a four-team event, with each side playing the other twice.

Is there a change to the domestic calendar?

A request has been made to advance the domestic season marginally, so it ends in February. A number of teams cited the unavailability of top players because the domestic season clashed with university and college exams in March-April. Given most of the players at the domestic circuit are all semi-professionals, the board is considering the request.