With only 11 days to go for the start of the ICC Twenty20 World Cup in the West Indies, the closure of airspace in Europe, caused by the ash cloud hanging over the region, is causing serious headaches for the organisers.
While teams are not expected to assemble in the West Indies much in advance of the first game on April 30, most would have originally planned to travel through Europe, transiting in London. Whether this will still be possible is unclear, but many are thought to be working on alternatives.
The major headache is for Afghanistan, who have qualified for the event after a tremendous two-year run in which they fought their way up through five tiers of the ICC’s World Cricket League. Afghanistan, currently in Abu Dhabi, were scheduled to travel to the West Indies via London, on Friday, but obviously this was not possible.
The players and support staff all have valid UK transit visas, but with this route currently shut down, they may have to apply for US visas. Given that securing US visas is a difficult task at the best of times for Afghans, the ICC’s logistics team is dealing with a full-fledged challenge.
While it was expected that other teams would, in the worst-case scenario, change their travel plans and fly via America, no clear answer was forthcoming on how Afghanistan would make it to the event.
“I don’t think anyone could have seen this one coming and the effect this volcanic eruption has had on air travel is unprecedented,” said an ICC spokesperson. “We are exploring all possible options and our events/travel teams are working extremely hard to make sure no stone is left unturned.”
The other obvious affected party is England, but they are still hoping that a window will open in which they can fly out. If this fails, they could try another port in Europe, or take the US route, with visas not being a serious problem for people holding British passports.
A spokesperson for the England & Wales Cricket Board said the situation was being monitored closely but no decision on changing travel plans had been taken yet.