ICC postpones T20 World Cup due to Covid-19 pandemic

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The ICC has finally postponed the 2020 men’s T20 World Cup, a decision made because of the uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The decision to put off the tournament, originally scheduled for October-November, was taken by the ICC Board on Monday. The board has also shifted the 2023 Men’s World Cup from the February-March window to October-November that year.

The board ultimately agreed to windows for three men’s events, with T20 World Cups in October-November 2021 and October-November 2022. But one decision not yet made is in which order Australia and India will host the T20 World Cups. In the original rights cycle, India was scheduled to host the event in 2021, after this year’s event in Australia. The Women’s World Cup, in New Zealand in February next year, has not yet been postponed, the ICC saying that planning for the event continues “as scheduled”.

Why has the ICC not named venues for the T20 World Cups for 2021 and 2022?

This remains a point of contention between the BCCI and CA, and is one reason why it took as long as it did to postpone the tournament officially. In May Earl Eddings, the CA chairman, sent an email to the ICC’s Finance & Commercial Affairs Committee, in which he proposed that Australia and India swap hosting rights for the T20 World Cup, with Australia hosting the event in October-November 2021 and India a year later. Doing that, Eddings said, would financially help all members. If not, Eddings said it would be “detrimental to cricket” in case the “cancellation” of the World Cup in Australia this year was “replaced by award of” the tournament in October-November 2022.

The BCCI is understood to have preferred hosting the 2021 T20 World Cup so it would not have to, potentially, host three marquee tournaments within a year: the T20 World Cup in 2022, the IPL in 2023 and the 50-over World Cup in 2023.

“The… Board agreed to continue to monitor the rapidly changing situation and assess all the information available in order to make a considered decision on future hosts to ensure the sport is able to stage safe and successful global events in 2021 and 2022,” the ICC said in the release.

It wasn’t mentioned in the release but the ICC is also hoping that the BCCI is able to resolve a long-standing tax-exemption issue with the Indian government, for which the deadline currently is December this year.

Why has the 2023 World Cup been postponed?

Both the ICC and its members, it is understood, wanted to buy some more time to be able to complete the qualifying events for the tournament. The ODI Super League, a qualification pathway for the event, was meant to start in May this year but has been put on hold as all international cricket came to a halt as the pandemic spread around the globe.

What were CA’s concerns over hosting the T20 World Cup this year?

The announcement of the postponement, ultimately, does not come as a surprise, not least because CA had said more than once that it was going to be difficult to host the tournament. Then chief executive Kevin Roberts had said in May that it was a “very high risk” to conduct the tournament, Eddings echoing that pessimism in June, saying it was “unlikely” and “unrealistic” when the pandemic was “spiking” worldwide.

Australia has not been as badly hit by Covid-19 as other countries, with 3026 active cases as of Monday. But Melbourne and surrounding areas are currently back in lockdown and cases are rising in New South Wales amid concerns over a second wave. International borders, and quite a few state borders, remain closed other than for special cases.

With participating countries such as England, India, South Africa and Pakistan among the most severely affected, the risks of bringing together 16 teams from around the world and creating a bio-secure bubble were seen as too high.

The ICC Board has met several times since April to discuss contingency planning and was meant to make a final decision on the T20 World Cup during a meeting on June 10, but eventually deferred the call. (ESPNCricinfo)