India is undoubtedly the biggest crowd puller in the cricketing world (find out exactly why here), and there is no dearth of popularity when it comes to the game of cricket in India. The number of local games played here day in and day out is massive, and the fanfare for the sport in this part of the world is so huge. 

As we all know, international cricket happens around the globe in most months, and precisely, a modern Indian cricketer who hardly represents the nation hardly gets a break. Apart from international cricket, a huge amount of domestic cricket is also being played in the country.

The BCCI governs Indian cricket, and this includes the domestic circuit as well. Unlike the case in the other cricket boards, the Indian domestic scene is widespread and quite complex. The domestic structure in India is second to none, which is on the expected lines with the population.

This means the number of state associations will be more, and the teams participating will be more, which automatically increases the number of domestic cricket matches played around the country. It means plenty of opportunities for any talented cricketer in the country. For instance, the BCCI hosts a whopping 1846 games from June 2023 to March 2024.

BCCI hosts domestic competitions across all formats of the sport and ensures every state board is covered in each of these. Apart from that, there is a zonal tournament called the Duleep Trophy for red-ball cricket. In contrast, for limited-overs cricket, Deodhar Trophy is held. The one-off first-class match played between the reigning Ranji Trophy Champions and the best players from the Rest of India (ROI) is called the Irani Trophy. The Indian domestic season usually kicks off with the Duleep Trophy, generally in June/July.

Find out: The Difference between First-Class Cricket and List-A Cricket

Let us get into a detailed view of how India’s domestic circuit works and the important tournaments held in a calendar year.

The Ranji Trophy

The Indian domestic circuit has one of the biggest first-class competitions among any other major Test-playing nations in the form of the Ranji Trophy. It is one of the most prestigious and competitive tourneys in the world of cricket that lasts for more than three months and is played between 38 teams. The tournament structure is round-robin followed by the knockouts.

Ranji Trophy was first played in 1934, and BCCI made this the tradition to hold the tournament annually ever since. Mumbai is the most successful team, with 41 titles.

As mentioned, 38 teams will partake in the season and be split into five groups, with four Elite Groups (8 teams each) and a Plate Group consisting of 6 teams. Two teams from each elite group will make it to the Quarterfinals, while the top four teams from the plate group will make it to the semi-finals. There will be titles for both these levels, and the promotion/ relegation pattern will be followed.

The Vijay Hazare Trophy and Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy

Shortly known as the VHT, BCCI organises this multi-team List A tournament annually and will be played between all 38 teams – India’s premier 50-over tournament, also known as the Ranji One Day Trophy. 

The VHT is usually followed by a T20 tournament – Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, also called as SMAT.

Both these white ball tourneys will be played among 38 teams in which teams are divided into two groups of 7 teams and three groups of 8 teams each. Then it will follow the knockout pattern to decide upon the winner. This has been a tradition for many years unless there is any disruption, like in the case of Covid.

These tournaments, namely Duleep Trophy, the Deodhar Trophy, Irani Trophy, the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, Vijay Hazare Trophy, and the Ranji Trophy, all comprise the Indian domestic season for the calendar year. After this, India’s domestic calendar ends, and the extravaganza known as the IPL starts.

The Indian Premier League 

The IPL may not be a part of the BCCI domestic calendar, but it is an integral event in Indian cricket. SMAT is a stepping stone for the players entering the IPL fray. 

IPL commenced in 2008, and since then, it has grown by leaps and bounds as the premier T20 franchise tournament in the world. It has become a major money spinner and gives rise to the best of cricketing talents and some of the best cricketing actions. 

It is usually played in March or April and extends to 2 months, most likely till the end of May. Some of the best players across the globe participate in this league, contested between 10 teams. Interestingly the 16th season of IPL is in its climax and heading for an exciting finish.

This is all about the Indian domestic circuit organised by one of the most powerful cricket boards in the world. These things make Indian cricket the most spoken about in the cricketing fraternity.

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