How T20 World Cup move could reshape Aussie summer
If the IPL fills the void left by the T20 World Cup, COVID-19 restrictions could cost Afghanistan the chance to play in Perth and see the India series schedule re-drawn
23 June 2020, 08:17 PM AEST
Test captain Tim Paine says he's "not fussed" by speculation the COVID-19 pandemic might force a change to Cricket Australia's published schedule of Test matches this summer but remains hopeful an inaugural meeting with Afghanistan goes ahead.
Rashid Khan's Afghanistan have been scheduled to meet Australia for the first time in Test cricket in the summer's opening Test match, a day-night affair at Perth Stadium, listed to begin November 21.
"Any time we can get someone like Afghanistan out to Australia and help develop cricket in countries like that is a great opportunity," Paine said today.
"Fingers crossed that one gets up and running, but everyone is thoroughly looking forward to the challenge India is going to bring.
"Certainly, Afghanistan will bring some different challenges with all their mystery spin as well. So looks like it will be a really challenging Test summer."
It's shaping just as challenging off the field, with COVID-19 causing uncertainty for cricket fixtures around the globe and things may yet change.
The International Cricket Council is set to make a decision next month on this year's men’s T20 World Cup and if that event – scheduled to be played in Australia between October 18 and November 15 – is postponed as is widely expected it could start a chain reaction of reshuffled international fixtures.
The Indian Premier League is likely to fill the void left by the T20 World Cup and, depending on when that tournament ends, with reports it could run as late as November 8, it would leave little leeway for Afghanistan to assemble a Test team and meet all of the yet-to-be-determined quarantine and biosecurity measures.
Likewise, the Australians participating in this year's IPL – with David Warner, Steve Smith and Pat Cummins among the 17 Aussies contracted for this year's tournament that hold contracts worth a collective A$17.145 million – would also need to obey quarantine restrictions on their return from abroad.
The Western Australian Cricket Association were already unhappy at having been scheduled to host Afghanistan instead of India, and could argue to have the four-Test series schedule re-drawn, with contractual obligations guaranteeing the Perth Stadium a Test each, or significant compensation instead.
With COVID-19 relatively under control in WA, the state government yesterday announced plans to allow full-capacity crowds from July 18, meaning up to 60,000 fans could attend games at Perth Stadium while stronger restrictions are enforced around the rest of the country.
With the BCCI unwilling to extend this summer's Border-Gavaskar series beyond four Tests this summer – although a five-Test series hosted in India for their subsequent meeting is likely – the Australian players could yet lose out on their desire to open the series at their Gabba stronghold.
"I'm not too fussed," Paine said today of the issue. "I think both of those wickets are excellent Test wickets. The Gabba has been for a very, very long time.
"And you only have to look back to the last time we played a Test against India at the Perth Stadium, I thought that was one of the great Test matches to watch.
"Given both sides' pace attacks, either of those would be enthralling for spectators and TV audiences, both exciting prospects.
"But that decision is out of my hands, that's for sure."
Tim Paine gives Virat Kohli a little clip in the post-game presser 🍿 The Aussie captain is keen to play against India in Brisbane next summer! pic.twitter.com/NCmGqua67s— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) November 24, 2019
Pressed to make a choice, Paine joked his choice would be Blundstone Arena in Hobart, the home ground where the Test captain has yet to represent his country, but in the past Paine has made no secret of Australia's desire to start their summer in Brisbane.
"That's where we like to start our summer and it has been for a long, long time except for (the 2018-19) summer (when India last toured), " Paine said in the wake of last summer's Gabba Test.
"We like to start here against anyone. Having said that it doesn't win us games of cricket. The reason we win games of cricket at the Gabba is because we outplay our opposition.
"That doesn't change dependent on the venue … but certainly we enjoy playing here which allows you to settle into games a little bit quicker."
Australia are unbeaten at the Gabba since 1988, when they were rolled by the great West Indies team of that era, and have now gone 31 Tests at the venue without a loss.
"We can't wait to come to the Gabba, knowing that Australian sides play well and win a lot of Test matches here," Paine said previously.
"It's where we traditionally like to start so it feels like the Australian summer when you get together and get out on the Gabba.
"It's a great place for us to play – the wicket suits Australian sides really well so to start here is fantastic and the boys are really looking forward to it."
Other implications of the T20 World Cup moving would likely see Australia's three-match T20 series with the West Indies in Queensland in early October postponed, while a mid-October three-game T20 series with India could be accommodated later in the summer.
If the India team joined the Australians in returning to serve their quarantine immediately after the IPL, those T20s could be played in lieu of the Afghanistan Test in late November before the Border-Gavaskar Test series.
The fluidity of fixtures amid the coronavirus pandemic was highlighted when Paine fielded questions, six months before the Boxing Day Test is scheduled to be played, about moving the fixture away from the MCG given the new outbreak of COVID-19 cases in the city.
"Given the current circumstances I dare say everything is on the table," Paine said.
"We're hopeful that everywhere we play come summertime will be able to have crowds. How big they are we don't know.
"It's a difficult one to answer because there is so much changing week to week, day to day. Given three or four months, we just don't know what it's going to look like.
"From a players' point of view, we want to be playing in front of big crowds at the best venues.
"A big day like Boxing Day is something everyone looks forward to, and a big part of that is playing at the MCG.
"Fingers crossed things are going well enough we can do that, but we're spoilt for choice here in Australia with some world-class stadiums, so if something had to change, we've got plenty of options."
Longest Test undefeated streaks by venue
National Cricket Stadium, Karachi Pakistan: 34 matches 1955-2000
The Gabba, Brisbane Australia: 31 matches 1988-2020*
Kensington Oval, Bridgetown West Indies: 27 matches 1948-1993
Old Trafford, Manchester England: 25 matches 1905-1954
Sabina Park, Kingston West Indies: 19 matches 1958-1989