Eden Gardens will be hosting the Bengal T20 Challenge behind closed doors - and with all COVID-19 precautions. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: A T20 tournament in a bio-bubble in India, that too by a state body? The Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) will be kickstarting their season with a brand new event called Bengal T20 Challenge, with six first division teams, in a league format from November 24-December 9.

Former India international and Bengal captain Manoj Tiwary, IPL players Srivats Goswami (Sunrisers Hyderabad) and Shahbaz Ahmed (Royal Challengers Bangalore), along with all the regular players of the state team - the current Ranji Trophy runners-up - will comprise the line-up of the six club teams: Mohun Bagan, East Bengal, Town, Kalighat, Customs and Tapan Memorial club. The teams, however, cannot be in full strength as a number of the state’s players like Mohammad Shami, Wriddhiman Saha and Ishan Porel are part of the Indian squad currently on tour of Australia.

Players' draft pick for the Bengal T20 Challenge is in progress last week. Supplied video

Speaking to Gulf News about the driving idea of the tournament, CAB President Avishek Dalmiya said: “Due to the ongoing pandemic, the state’s cricketers were deprived of any action. We have taken up the challenge of hosting this tournament in a bio-bubble eco system with all Covid precautions in place. The thought process behind this tournament is to nurture the talents of the state and also enable this competition to act as a talent feeder to the various age groups representing the association.”

Players of all six teams have moved into a city hotel for a quarantine period of three days, following which they moved into the bio-bubble. All the players, support staff of teams, match officials will be undergoing tests every fourth day of the competition to be played at the Eden Gardens. There will be a total of 33 games in the tournament, with each team facing the other twice, followed by the semi-finals and the final.

The idea of playing such a tournament in a bio-bubble has created a ripple of excitement among the cricketers. Mohun Bagan skipper Anustup Majumder, a senior Bengal player, said: “We all are pretty excited to get back to cricket again after such long time. Hats off to CAB for organising such an exciting tournament amid this difficult situation, I thank them for their effort for the betterment of cricket & players.”
 Shahbaz, a spinner-allrounder and captain of Tapan Memorial, said: “Ahead of the domestic season, this is great platform for the players to perform and open gates to greater opportunities. It will boost the players’ confidence before the season. I thank CAB for organising this tournament and we all are very excited for resumption of cricket in Bengal.” 
 Similar T20 tournaments have been organised by some of the state cricket associations around the country over the past few years - Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Saurashtra, Jharkhand, Andhra, Mumbai and the CAB is hoping to make the competition an annual affair.