CEOs of Test nations to discuss Covid-19’s effect on future tours
Chief executives of Test playing nations will attend a conference call next week to discuss the impact of the Covid–19 pandemic on the Future Tours Program (FTP). Foremost on the agenda will be the inaugural World Test Championship (WTC) that is now in doubt. The final is scheduled for June next year.
India lead the WTC table with 360 points. Australia, lying second (296 points), have already lost a chance to topple India as leaders after the postponement of its two-Test series in Bangladesh scheduled for June. England’s tour of Sri Lanka too was postponed, with more disruptions on the cards. With the UK government extending the lockdown till May 7 and a further extension looming, the tours of West Indies and Pakistan to England in June-July are set to be affected.
“Currently, nobody knows how long this is going to last and which country will be able to come out of it, and when. The FTP will have to be revisited as members start to understand what can be rescheduled and what can’t,” a source close to developments said.
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The two-year WTC cycle began after the 2019 ODI World Cup with each team to play six Test series--three at home and three away. The debate over the points system notwithstanding, the postponements have left the WTC cycle itself in tatters. With India and Australia well placed on the table, they may make a case for extending the cycle beyond June 2021 rather than scrapping the championship.
The first ODI league set to begin in May is to give context to bilateral ODIs and will serve as a qualifying pathway to the 2023 World Cup. It will now be deferred.
When scramble to book alternate slots in a post-pandemic world begins, commercial considerations will dictate planning. The priority of the big three boards (India, Australia, England) is to minimise losses. BCCI needs to find a window for its premier event, IPL. WTC or not, India would want the 11 home matches (3 T20s, 3 ODIs, 5 Tests) against England in 20-21 to happen given the board’s high-value media rights deal.
Cricket Australia relies heavily on the year-ending tour by India to prevent a further dent in its balance sheet. The England board, ECB, is the worst affected as its entire home season, including the inaugural ‘The Hundred’, is in doubt.
That raises questions about the T20 World Cup in Australia in October-November. The affected boards, at least the powerful ones, which stand to make more money from cricket at home than from the share of ICC revenue, may be keen to book their own window in place of the World Cup.
With India to host a T20 World Cup in 2021, ICC is looking at multiple scenarios. “We are continuing with our planning for ICC events as they are but given the rapidly evolving situation, as a prudent and responsible measure we are also undertaking a comprehensive contingency planning exercise... We will continue to take advice from experts and authorities, including the Australian government, and take decisions at the appropriate time,” an ICC spokesman said.