BCCI Secretary Jay Shah on Friday said that the postponed Ranji Trophy will be held in two phases starting next month, clearing the decks for India's premier domestic competition to resume after being cancelled last season.
It is expected that the 33-team tournament will begin in the second week of February and the first phase will continue for about a month.
The tournament, which was not held last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was scheduled to begin on January 13 but was postponed owing to a third wave of infections across the country.
"The Board has decided to conduct the Ranji Trophy this season in two phases. In the first phase, we plan to complete all matches of the league stage while the knockouts will be held in June," Shah said in a statement.
"My team is working closely to mitigate any kind of health risk caused by the pandemic, while at the same time ensuring a highly competitive red-ball cricket contest."
Shah said that the BCCI understands the significance of the Ranji Trophy.
"Ranji Trophy is our most prestigious domestic competition, which has been providing Indian Cricket with an enviable talent pool every year. It is absolutely important that we take all necessary steps to safeguard the interest of this premier event," he said.
The BCCI announcement has come a day after its treasurer Arun Dhumal had said that the Board intends to host the event.
The two phases are required since the BCCI also plans to host the IPL from March 27 and hosting two big tournaments would not be possible practically as the players' availability would also be an issue.
Earlier, former national team head coach Ravi Shastri on Friday said that Indian cricket would become "spineless" if the currently postponed Ranji Trophy is ignored.
"The Ranji Trophy is the backbone of Indian cricket. The moment you start ignoring it our cricket will be SPINELESS!," Shastri tweeted.
The BCCI paid 50 per cent of the earlier match fee as compensation to all first-class cricketers who endured financial losses due to Ranji's cancellation last year.