The Jharkhand State Cricket Association (JSCA) is set to launch its own T20 league – the Jharkhand Premier League – on September 15 this year. In an email accessed by ESPNcricinfo, several cricketers who are affiliated with the association were informed of their selection for the league and sent accompanying forms to register themselves for it. They have been asked to report to the JSCA International Stadium in Ranchi – with instructions around Covid-19 testing – which is understood to be the host venue for the entire tournament.
The tournament’s proposed format of hosting all matches in one venue is not completely in line with BCCI’s tentative plans for the domestic season, which involves creating groups that would exclusively play on four grounds in two cities. But it could well prove to be an unofficial dry run for the BCCI, in terms of handling a safety bubble with multiple teams. At the same time, it is unclear if the tournament has been approved by the BCCI yet, and ESPNcricinfo’s attempts to reach the association were unsuccessful. That said, it is unusual for such a tournament to take place without official sanction, and the letter sent to the players was on official JSCA stationery, which clearly spells out that it is affiliated with the BCCI.
The BCCI is currently dealing with the prospect of a severely truncated domestic season, if one happens at all, because of the Covid-19 pandemic. There has been no sanctioned cricket in India since March, and no clear path laid out for resumption apart from a preliminary fixtures proposal that has not yet been ratified by senior management. The radar is trained firmly on the IPL at the moment, which has run into several challenges of its own, including at least a 20-30% drop in revenue for all its franchises, apart from a 50% drop in title sponsorship.
In this climate, the JSCA has reportedly signed on two major sponsors as well as a live-streaming partner.
The tournament will, however, be without prominent Jharkhand players like MS Dhoni, Ishan Kishan, Shahbaz Nadeem and Varun Aaron, who are in the UAE to take part in the IPL for their respective teams. But the board sees it as an opportunity to provide a platform for upcoming players and keep a strong pool of players ready should there be a domestic season in the works by the end of the year.
“The Association is humbled and offers its deepest gratitude to the state government for its proactive support in these despairing times, to kick-start sporting activities in Jharkhand,” JSCA president Nafees Akhtar Khan was quoted as saying in the Telegraph.
The league will reportedly have six teams representing Jharkhand’s six zones and run for 33 days. The teams will not be franchise-based. “The six teams representing six zones include Ranchi Raiders, Dumka Daredevils, Dhanbad Dynamos, Singhbhum Strikers, Jamshedpur Jugglers and Bokaro Blasters,” JSCA secretary Sanjay Sahay was quoted as saying in the Telegraph. “The teams shall comprise only of players who are registered with the JSCA from the state of Jharkhand. Nearly 100 players will be part of the tournament. There will be no franchises or team owners.”
The email Sahay sent out to the players included a document on Covid-19 protocols, which lays out the ways in which a bio-secure bubble will be created at the stadium. The letter of selection stated that players would only be allowed into the bubble after submitting negative reports for Covid-19 before leaving from their homes. Upon reaching the venue, the guidelines are along expected lines – physical distancing, no saliva on the ball, no sharing of equipment, no exits from the bubble, and so on. The players are going to be provided three sets of “accommodation kits” for the duration of their stay, one set of “dressing room kits” for each match, and two sets of “sports attire”. Players have been told to use personal vehicles or unshared taxis to reach the venue.
There is also a provision for those with symptoms: “Any player/support staff suspected of having Covid-19 like symptoms during their stay shall undergo RT-PCR tests for Covid-19. Two tests one day apart (Day 1 & Day 3) shall be done to account for false negatives. If both the test results are negative, only then they shall be allowed to take further part in the league.”
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