Staging the Twenty20 World Cup in Australia this year is “unrealistic” in the midst of a global coronavirus pandemic, Cricket Australia chairman Earl Eddings admitted Tuesday.
The tournament is scheduled to take place from October 18 to November 15, and officials have previously said they are planning for it to proceed on those dates.
But with many global borders still shut due to virus-related travel restrictions, Eddings conceded that was looking increasingly unlikely.
“While it hasn’t been formally called off this year, or postponed, trying to get 16 countries into Australia in the current world, where most countries are still going through COVID spiking, I think it’s unrealistic, or it’s going to be very, very difficult,” he told reporters.
Eddings said Cricket Australia had put forward a number of options to the International Cricket Council (ICC).
“The ICC are having meetings as we speak, it’s a bit of a movable feast at the moment,” he said.
T20 World Cup chief executive Nick Hockley, who on Tuesday took over as interim Cricket Australia chief, said he expected the ICC to make a decision about the tournament’s future next month.
“We’ve got a fantastic local organising committee who are busy preparing for every eventuality and the decision that will come,” he said.
– ‘Positive chats’ –
Australia has so far enjoyed success containing the virus, allowing it to ease restrictions, including letting crowds of up to 10,000 into sports stadiums from next month.
But strict international border restrictions remain in place and there are also limits on domestic movement between states, creating an added headache for an event where forty-five matches are split between seven cities.
Eddings said India’s Test tour in December-January appeared set to go ahead, with the tourists willing to undergo quarantine to enter Australia.
“We’ve had a lot of very positive chats with India, they’re very keen to tour,” he said.
“Now it’s a matter of how we get over the hurdles with COVID-19 for them to come into the country.”
However, the T20 World Cup, involving 15 visiting teams and support staff, presents a far greater logistical challenge.
The most likely scenario appears to be rescheduling the tournament until next year, but it will depend on the status of the pandemic and finding a spot in cricket’s crowded calendar.
Postponing the World Cup could have a knock-on effect for the Indian Premier League, which was supposed to begin in March but has been repeatedly pushed back.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India is desperate to salvage the world’s richest T20 tournament, even if that means taking it overseas or playing in empty stands.
While the BCCI has earmarked a September-October window for the event, delaying the T20 World Cup would open up an attractive slot.
The ICC last week said the situation regarding the T20 World Cup and coronavirus was rapidly evolving but insisted “planning for delivery of the events in the scheduled window is ongoing”.
“The health and well-being of everyone involved is our priority and other considerations fall out from that,” ICC chief executive Manu Sawhney said.
Photo: Australia played New Zealand behind closed doors in Sydney in March (AFP / Saeed KHAN)