Cancel risky T20 World Cup and buckle up for losses: Cricket experts

In its meeting on Thursday, the ICC deferred a decision on the fate of the showpiece in Australia till June 10, while continuing to explore contingency plans

ICC T20 World Cup, Cricket Australia, Kumar Sangakkara, Eoin Morgan, coronavirus, COVID-19, Lockdown
Cricket Australia conceded that there is "very high risk" of this year's T20 World Cup being postponed and the body is bracing up for huge revenue loss because of that. Photo: Twitter

Sri Lankan batting great Kumar Sangakkara feels that one of the options is to cancel the T20 World Cup this year as many questions around the COVID-19 pandemic remain “unanswered”.

Sangakkara, who is the president of the prestigious Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), feels the situation needs to be monitored.

In its meeting on Thursday, the ICC deferred a decision on the fate of the showpiece in Australia till June 10, while continuing to explore contingency plans amid a ranging pandemic that has derailed calendars worldwide.

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“Everyday, there are new learning, new things being found out, so we will have to wait and see, but the options may be to cancel it this year, postpone it to another year, but to have in place anticipatory procedures that take into account health and safety of both the players and the spectators, and make sure that’s iron clad,” he said.

Sangakkara said there are many unanswered questions around the pandemic, which has brought sporting activity across the world to a grinding halt.

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“The real thing is whats going to happen with the virus. Is it going to disappear like SARS and MERS, or is this something that’s going to come back seasonally? Will we have to live with this particular virus or different strains of it from time to time or do we have to live with it long term?” Sangakkara asked on Star Sports show Cricket Connected.

The former Sri Lanka captain added, “If that’s the case, then some of the changes that we have seen in our lives now, may be the new normal for us for a few years until a vaccine is found or until theres enough immunity globally among the people to withstand this.

“So, those are really questions that I don’t think anyone can answer at the moment. We will get more clarity as time goes by.”

Sangakkara said he can imagine sitting for a meeting around the ICC table and trying to find answers to all such questions.

“So, I can imagine sitting around a table for the ICC, trying to understand, consulting with experts to understand whats going on. And more so, the questions that a lot of us have in our minds have still not been answered by the top most experts in the world,” he signed off.

Meanwhile, Cricket Australia conceded that there is “very high risk” of this year’s T20 World Cup being postponed and the body is bracing up for huge revenue loss because of that.

Speaking to reporters, CA chief executive Kevin Roberts admitted that the fate of T20 World Cup, is uncertain because of the global travel restrictions in place.

“We have been hopeful all along that it could be staged in October-November but you would have to say there’s a very high risk about the prospect of that happening,” Roberts said.

The ICC has deferred a decision on the event till June 10, saying it wants to continue exploring contingency plans for some more time.

Roberts said Cricket Australia is staring at a revenue loss of around AU$ 80 million.

Even if the tournament goes ahead as per plan, it is likely to be held in empty stadiums because of the social distancing norms and CA is well aware of it.

“The likelihood of significant crowds is very slim – ordinarily that would deliver well over AU$ 50m revenue to CA. The T20 World Cup is a big question and that’s a factor of perhaps AU$ 20m. “And its likely that our bio-security measures that we need to put in place to deliver the season will cost in the order of AU$ 10m,” he said.

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The CA chief, however, is more confident of hosting the four-Test series against India starting at Brisbane on December 3. According to the original schedule, India are slated to play at four venues – Brisbane, Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne – but Roberts said there is every possibility of a tweak in the fixtures.

“That (schedule) assumes that state borders are open to domestic travel. It may be that circumstances dictate that when the time comes maybe we can only use one or two venues, we really don’t know any of that yet. There is a lot of variables based on whether we have four venues in four states or as little as one venue in one state,” he said.

“There’s endless scenarios and possibilities … were very optimistic that we will be able to stage the Indian men’s tour and the other inbound tours for the season. But were realistic enough to know they will look very different to a normal summer,” Roberts added.

Concurring the same doubts as everyone else, England’s white-ball captain Eoin Morgan said that hosts Australia would be wary of risking a second wave of coronavirus outbreak in the country.

“I’d be surprised if it goes ahead,” Morgan was quoted as saying by the Press Association.

“My reasons for that would be if you look at how Australia has handled the pandemic, theyve shut down the borders pretty early, had a limited number of cases and deaths in comparison to the rest of the world,” he added.

Morgan said going ahead, Australia, which has reported just over 7,100 positive cases with more than 6500 recoveries and 103 deaths, would be weighing their options. “Their biggest worry moving forward – a small negative to a huge positive – would be they almost dont know what the immunity would be like if the virus does have an outbreak,” he added.

Morgan said that having teams flying in from across the world will come with the possibility of a second COVID-19 outbreak in the country.

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“Having 16 teams across several venues has the potential to expose something,” Morgan said.

“It might only be a handful of cases to be spread, but when you look at how quickly it escalates, you weigh up the chance of playing a World Cup or postponing it, (which is) probably a bigger positive,” he added.

Last year, Morgan had announced his desire to lead England at the 2020 and 2021 T20 World Cups and the white-ball skipper said the coronavirus enforced break has given players, including him the opportunity to mentally reset.

“It doesn’t change that view for the simple reason that I think there are a lot of players that would have benefited from this break,” he said.

“Its not a physical break its a complete mental refresh from the game that were grossly involved in and have been for some time. I certainly have. “I feel at that stage now where I want to pick up a bat again and I’m ready to go as opposed to picking up a bat because I’m playing in three weeks time. That’s always a nice place to be,” Morgan added.

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