The BCCI has brought forward two domestic tournaments, the Zonal T20 league and the Syed Mushtaq Ali knockout tournament, to ensure the players have a chance to audition ahead of the 2018 auction on January 27 and 28. It is understood that the Zonal T20 league will now be held from January 8 to 16 instead of January 21 to 29. The new schedule also has the Syed Mushtaq Ali knockout tournament being pushed from the February 4-10 window to January 21-27.
Consequently, the fixtures for the Vijay Hazare Trophy – the domestic 50-over tournament – have also been reworked. The group-league phase, which was set to be played from February 16 to 25, has been advanced to February 5 to 14. The schedule for the knockout stages has also been tweaked, and it will be now played from February 21 to 26 instead of March 3 to 8. On the other hand, the Irani Cup, which will feature the Ranji Trophy winner against a Rest of India side, has been postponed from January to March.
A couple of officials from IPL franchises confirmed to ESPNcricinfo that they hadn’t made specific rescheduling requests to the BCCI, but noted that the changes were not surprising. “It has happened in the last two years as well,” an official said. “It makes sense for both the players and the franchises as we can take a look at the talent on display ahead of the auctions.”
In 2015, the BCCI had decided to advance the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, the domestic T20 championship, before the IPL auction. The board had also changed the format of both its inter-state limited-overs championships from an intra-zonal-knockout format to a group-knockout league format. While the BCCI at that point did not openly state that the schedule had been planned with the IPL auctions in mind – it instead said the fixtures were drawn keeping in mind the Under-19 World Cup and the World T20 – the move was welcomed by both the franchises and players.
Up to that point, there were question marks over the relevance of the Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament, which was played after the IPL auction. With teams already being assembled, there was little at stake, at least in the short run, for both the players and the franchises. However, with the change in schedule, players, talent scouts and franchise officials have admitted that the tournament now has greater context.