Kolkata: Can the T20 World Cup be actually held in India or needs to be moved to the UAE? Is it possible to find a window between September and October to conduct the rest of IPL season and if so, where?
These are the two million dollar questions for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) as they grapple with the dilemma ahead of their special general meeting on May 29.
The chances of India hosting the World T20, scheduled to be held across nine cities from October 18, suffered a bodyblow the moment the IPL 2021 had to be suspended in the first week of May with a rising number of positive cases of COVID-19 among the players and support staff across the franchises. The havoc that the second wave of the pandemic has wreaked on the country is there for everyone to see and several members of the international cricket community, who had been the beneficiaries from IPL themselves, have expressed their doubts that the cricket boards may be nervous to send teams to India unless there is a dramatic improvement in the situation over the next couple of months.
The UAE has been already been named as the stand-by venue, and sources in the BCCI feel it would be a pragmatic call to take – though they will maintain that the World Cup will be held ‘‘as scheduled’’ for now – hoping that the situation will improve in the coming months. It may be recalled that the International Cricket Council (ICC), world governing body of the game, had waited till July last year to postpone the 2020 edition scheduled in Australia under somewhat similar conditions – though the pandemic situation Down Under was nowhere as severe as in India.
However, it’s not the only challenge that the BCCI are facing this year – their inability to finish the IPL 2021 has created a rare credibility crisis for them as hosts – while the board supremo Sourav Ganguly has gone on record saying that they would be risking a loss to the tune of Dh one billion (Rs 2000 crores) if the remaining 31 matches of the league cannot be completed. The intrepid COO of IPL and interim CEO of the Indian board, Hemang Amin, has reportedly worked out a masterplan to stage the Phase II of the T20 league in the UAE within a one-month window between September 15 and October 15 – soon after the Test series between India and England till a few days before the start of the T20 World Cup in India or the UAE.
Amin’s proposal to host the rest of IPL in the UAE has met with the approval of all the stakeholders, who feel the UAE is a ‘‘tried and tested’’ venue compared to England – which is also an option for the BCCI. There are, however, a number of ifs and buts with this plan: will countries like England, Australia and New Zealand release their marquee players again just before the World Cup? If both the IPL and the World T20 both are eventually held in the UAE, what will happen to the ICC norm of taking over the wickets three weeks ahead of their event?
There are more questions than answers as of now. As things stand, ICC cannot afford another postponement of a cash cow like the T20 World Cup. Neither are the BCCI willing to relent on their plans to host the rest of IPL!