When Can Cricket Return to Our Televisions?

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Every aspect of life has now faced the effect of stay-at-home restrictions around the world and live sport is no exception. Now, as some lucidity returns and “lockdowns” turns into “unlocks”, the hope of International Cricket’s return to our T.V. sets is not bleak altogether.

The Wisden Trophy

Fans around the world must have felt to be on cloud nine when the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), after a series of deliberations, announced the dates for the West Indies tour of England in July. Southampton’s Ageas Bowl and the Old Trafford in Manchester will host the three Tests starting from July 8. While the first Test will be played in Hampshire, the remaining two Tests will be played in Manchester from July 16 and 24, without spectators.
Edgbaston has been selected as a contingency venue and will be used to stage players’ training through July. The proceedings are still conditioned on the approval of the UK Government but still, Jason Holder’s 25 men squad arrived in Manchester on June 9 to vie to retain the Wisden Trophy.
The squad will undergo mandatory 14-day quarantine at Old Trafford before the series. ECB has put forward a “gold standard” bio-secure environment to host the squads and the management groups. The specifics of the bio-secure “bubble” include testing and persistent thermal screening of all 180-200 people involved for a venue, distinct zones for players and other staff, and other extensive social distancing and hygiene standards.  
First Test: July 8-12, Ageas Bowl, Southampton
Second Test: July 16-20, Old Trafford, Manchester
Third Test: July 24-28, Old Trafford, Manchester

Pakistan’s Tour of England

The Pakistan Cricket Board has agreed “in principle” to a Test and T20 tour of England in July which was planned before the Coronavirus hiatus. Although, according to PCB, the players will not be forced to agree for the assignment. The tour will start from 30th July with 3 Test matches before concluding with the 3rd t20I on 2nd September, all played behind closed doors.
A 25-member squad will follow identical travel, testing, and physical-distancing protocols as the West Indies team. The tour remains subject to the safety-success of the Wisden Trophy and approval of the Pakistani Government.

Sri Lanka and South Africa Calling

Cricket South Africa (CSA) recently gave goosebumps to millions of Indian cricket fans when they alluded to a possibility of a 3-match T20 series in late-August. Heeding to its plummeting finances, the CSA has already started seeking necessary government approvals and if everything goes well we might be here for a treat. Meanwhile, a report in the Times of India on 10th June indicated that the BCCI has given the green signal to Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) for a bilateral tour in August, provided the Indian government’s affirmation.
The series comprising of 3 T20Is and an equal number of ODIs was originally scheduled for June and now with most restrictions relaxed and tourism expected to return to Sri Lanka in August, it is even more propitious than the South African series where lockdown restrictions are still intact.The SLC similar to the CSA is also relying heavily on broadcasting revenues from the Indian tour to improve its otherwise dire finances.

The Australian Summer

Without any bilateral cricketing relations with Pakistan, we Indians find succor in series against the Kangaroos. Last year, India – for the first time – beat Australia in Australia 2-1 in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy which was nothing short of a historic triumph.The great success was although marred by the absence of the 2 biggest batting stalwarts for the Australian team.
With Steve Smith and David Warner back, cricket-geeks have been watching the pandemic situation in Australia – even more than India’s – with bated breath.Cricket Australia (CA) recently announced their fixtures for the summer of 2020-21 for both Men and Women tournaments with Virat Kohli & co.’s take on the No.1 Test side over four Test Matches being the apex highlight.
India's tour of Australia will begin with three T20Is starting on October 11th, serving as a precursor to the T20 World Cup which remains uncertain of happening according to how it was originally scheduled. The four-Test series will begin on December 3 at the Gabba, Brisbane ensured by a quintessential ODI series in the following year.
There’s also a schedule for an ODI tour of Zimbabwe to Australia in August, discussions on which are going on for some time now which if cleared could be among the first bilateral series to take place.A T20I series with the West Indies and a limited over rubber with New Zealand also appears in the schedule on either side of India’s tour along with a solitary test against Afghanistan in November.
The CA’s CEO Kevin Roberts had previously claimed a 9/10 chance of going ahead with the “flexible” schedules for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. If none of the English and Indian series proceed as expected, Australia’s nail-biting summer will (almost) certainly herald the era of post-pandemic cricket.

The Fate of T20 Word Cup

One of Cricket's premier events, the multi-national T20 World Cup was scheduled to be held from 18 October to 15 November 2020. Since April, both the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the hosts Australia have been sitting on the fence about the postponement of the event.

The ICC, on 10th June, adopting a wait-and-watch policy, temporised deciding on the tournament till July.
Australia has kept the World Cup’s window open in its schedule for the summer, howbeit, as admitted by Kevin Roberts, managing the international arrivals, domestic travels amid restrictions, and secure-venues makes the tournament a “high-risk” one.
The continent has seen one of the world’s most robust responses to the pandemic and is already bracing for the return of live sport like the NRL and the AFL. Even though postponement is likely, it will be too early to rule out the tournament for 2020 altogether.

What About the IPL?

If the World T20 is postponed, it frees the September-October window for international teams and cricketers. Although the BCCI is waiting for the official confirmation, it is very keen to hold the Indian Premier League (IPL) from late September to early November.
The IPL not only contributes a lion’s share to BCCI’s coffers, but it also provides for 1/3rd of the sport’s total annual revenue. Canceling or postponing both the IPL and World T20 tournaments could have serious economic implications. The option which is most widely being proposed – and is the most probable – is to postpone both the World T20 editions of 2020 and 2021 for one year each and holding the IPL this year.
Factoring India’s monsoon season and the uncertainty about the pandemic, BCCI is also considering outsourcing the tournaments to UAE or Sri Lanka with the former expected to get the edge if the situation arrives.
The BCCI has also engaged medical experts to formulate Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for restarting cricket at the local level and also to start training for the internationals. Seeing the BCCI going through with the preparations with the state authorities, it would not be a surprise if India’s most favorite tournament returns in September.

Written by - Rudhransh Khurana
Edited by - Arnav Mehra

When Can Cricket Return to Our Televisions? When Can Cricket Return to Our Televisions? Reviewed by Arnav Mehra on June 21, 2020 Rating: 5

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