The ICC T20 World Cup 2021 appears set to be played across four venues, including a surprised addition, outside India.
Covid-19 fears prevail. After an abrupt suspension of the Indian Premier League on May 11, the Board of Control for Cricket in India has reportedly also thrown the towel on hosting of the ICC T20 World Cup 2021. The International Cricket Council has reportedly been informed “internally”.
ICC INFORMED INTERNALLY
The T20 World Cup, which was to be hosted by the BCCI in India during October-November, is being moved out due to the Covid-19 fears. The ICC, according to national news agency PTI, has been informed informally.
The UAE had emerged as the first choice for staging the World Cup. In a surprise move, Oman’s Capital Muscat is being added as the fourth venue alongside Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah.
The BCCI will continue to be the host of the global event, expected to start in the first week of October.
HOSTING RIGHTS TO STAY WITH BCCI
“Yes, the BCCI, during the ICC board meeting, has formally asked for a four-week window to take a final call but, internally, they have said that they would like to keep the hosting rights and wouldn’t mind the tournament being held in UAE and Oman,” a unanimous board official, privy to ICC board developments, has told PTI.
The official revealed that Muscat has been zeroed in specifically for the preliminary rounds of the 16-team competition, which will also allow the three UAE grounds to get sufficient time to freshen up after 31 IPL games.
“If IPL finishes by October 10, then the UAE leg of World T20 can start off in November which would give three weeks’ time to the pitches to be spruced up for the global event. In the meanwhile, the first week can be held in Oman,” the official said.
The BCCI wanted to show to the world the readiness for the World Cup with successful completion of the IPL. The disruption of the cash-rich league has fully derailed the prospect of staging the World Cup in India.
A majority of the ICC board members believe that India is trying to bide time as they take stock of the situation at a time when it is very difficult to predict how things pan out in October-November.
“If you think about it practically, India is now reporting around 120,000 plus cases which is close to one third of what was being reported at the end of April and start of this month. But sitting on June 28, if you say “yes” to holding the World T20 in India, how can you predict the health situation in October if there is a third wave,” a seasoned official has reportedly questioned.
The second question is if the BCCI is wary of resuming the eight-team IPL in September in India, how it could hold a 16-team event in the country within a month’s time.
“Look, everyone including BCCI brass knows that monsoon is not a good enough reason and it is Covid-19, with almost 2,500 crore revenue riding on the tournament.
“In a 16-team event, if there is one team that gets affected in bubble with multiple cases, it won’t be like IPL. For weaker national teams, you won’t get ready replacements outside 14 or 15 men. There are teething issues,” an official of an associate nation, which is a part of the tournament, said.
COVID-19 A SERIOUS CONCERN
Another “elephant in the room” is how many overseas players would like to risk coming to India for the tournament if the situation doesn’t improve drastically.
“They would certainly come and play the IPL in the UAE and would be more than happy to play the T20 World Cup over there.
“But one can be rest assured that there would apprehensions with regards to health safety with players’ families and their boards and the local cricket association would give them an update on health threat perceptions. It would be easier said than done,” the official said.
The BCCI official has time till June 28 to take a call on hosting the T20 World Cup. However, with the looming threat of a third wave it appears the cash-rich board has made a wise and timely move.