The packed international schedule has forced the Board of Control for Cricket in India to erase the more than half-a-century-old Duleep Trophy inter-zonal competition from its schedule for the upcoming season.
The BCCI's 2015-16 domestic calendar, which, in a media statement, boasts that it will host 900 matches in the span of six months, starting October 1, has discarded the inter-zonal competition which was started in 1961-62.
The tournament was conducted to perpetuate the memory of K S Duleepsinhji, nephew of K S Ranjitsinhji in whose memory the national cricket championship is played.
It's not clear whether the tournament, which since its inception served as a virtual selection trial to pick Indian teams for home and away Test rubbers in days gone by, will be resurrected in the next 2016-17 season.
The BCCI’s statement is totally silent about the axing of such a prestigious tournament in the upcoming season.
As recently as the last year, the Duleep Trophy was selection trial for many Indian team aspirants. In fact, KL Rahul made it to the Australia-bound Test team on the back of his twin centuries in final for South Zone while playing against Central Zone.
Even the BCCI, in its Statistical Annual that has now been discontinued, mentions the importance of the Duleep Trophy by stating that it "serves as a useful guide to the form of cricketers when a Test side for a domestic series has to be selected or a team for an overseas tour is to be chosen”.
A prime example of someone who benefited by doing well in the tournament is Ajit Wadekar, under whose captaincy India made history by winning their first-ever Test series in 1971 in the West Indies and England successively.
The stylish left-hander was picked as one of the probables for the first time against the visiting Gary Sobers-led West Indies side after his classy century (103) for West Zone in the 1966-67 final against South Zone - led by M L Jaisimha, with then India skipper Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi playing under him - at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai.
Wadekar had invariably failed when the selectors were watching - despite scoring runs by the ton when they were not - prior to this superb hundred against a bowling attack comprising Abid Ali, Erapalli Prasanna, Bhagwat Chandrasekar and Srinivas Venkataraghavan.
Even after his classy ton Wadekar was not picked in the probables list and it needed persistent grilling by sports scribes of that generation to convince the then selection panel chief, Datta Ray, to include him as the 37th and additional probable.
Wadekar made his debut along with another future captain, Clive Lloyd of the West Indies, in the same Brabourne stadium Test match and scored a superb half century and then had a continuous run before he had to quit the game in the aftermath of public fury over the 3-0 whitewash in England in 1974.
In those days, when international cricket around the world was at a premium, venues like the Brabourne stadium would attract crowds in excess of 25,000 for Duleep Trophy games.
The concept of inter-zonal competition itself had been tried out in 1945-46, and discarded after three years, by the BCCI to replace the communal Pentangulars.
The idea was revived when the Board decided to institute a trophy in memory of Duleepsinhji, who like his legendary uncle Ranji, had played all his cricket in England and even represented England in Tests - when he died in 1959 in Mumbai.
Meanwhile, in the BCCI's domestic calendar, unlike in previous seasons, there is also a huge two-month gap between the conclusion of the Ranji Trophy league phase (December 4) and the commencement of the knock-out stage (February 3).
This has been apparently done to accommodate various limited-overs competitions run by the BCCI, like the One-day Inter-State league, Deodhar Trophy - both played over 50 overs - and the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 championships.
The Ranji Trophy concludes on February 28 followed by the Irani Cup between the national champions and the Rest of India from March 6-10 which also marks the end of the domestic season.
The board also decided to implement the suggestions given by the Anil Kumble-led technical committee wherein the Deodhar Trophy will feature four 50-overs matches across five days between January 24-28.
It will be on the lines of the NKP Salve Challenger Trophy. There will be three teams. Just like Challenger series, the Vijay Hazare Trophy champions will be one of the teams, which will compete with two other teams (India A or India Red etc).
Now these two teams will be selected by the national selectors from the performance of Vijay Hazare Trophy.
"The Deodhar trophy will be played on a 3-team format which comprises of the champion team of the Vijay Hazare tournament and 2 other teams which will be selected by the Senior National selectors," read the statement.
Also, the Vijay Hazare Trophy's national one-day championship's format is in for a change from the zonal to knock-out as all teams on basis of performance will now be divided into groups, just like the Ranji Trophy.
"Starting this year, the senior Men One-day and the T20 tournaments will be played on a Group basis( like Ranji Trophy) and not on Intra Zonal basis. Being the first time, the teams have been divided into 4 groups and these groups have been made based on last year's performance in the respective tournaments," according to the statement.
A new Under-19 Challenger tournament has been introduced in the junior level this year which will feature three teams selected by the junior National selectors. It will provide yet another opportunity to all the players to perform before the national squad is selected for the Under-19 World Cup, to be played in Bangladesh in January.
Two new tournaments are being introduced for women cricketers from this year, an Inter-state and then Inter Zonal One day Under-23 tournament and a three-day Senior Women Inter-Zonal tournament, which will provide more opportunities to the women cricketers.
In all BCCI plans to hold 900 matches through the nine-month calender year which they have computed to "2100 cricket days".
The logic behind 2100 cricket days is that on a particular Ranji Trophy date, if supposedly nine four-day matches are held across the country, it will be calculated as 9x4=36 cricket days. Similarly five one day matches played on same date will be calculated as five cricket days.
Ranji Trophy league: October 1-December 4, 2015
Vijay Hazare Trophy group stage: December 8-16, 2015
Vijay Hazare Trophy knock-outs: December 21-25, 2016
Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy Group stage: January 2-10, 2016
Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy Super League: January 15-20, 2016
Deodhar Trophy: January 24-28, 2016
Ranji Trophy knock-outs: February 3-28, 2016.
Irani Cup: March 6-10, 2016.