India confirms World Cup Plan B amid COVID crisis
United Arab Emirates on standby to host this year's T20 World Cup if India's COVID-19 disaster means the tournament must be relocated
30 April 2021, 03:46 PM AEST
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has confirmed this year's T20 World Cup will be held in the United Arab Emirates if the COVID-19 crisis means the tournament can't proceed in India.
Dhiraj Malhotra, a senior BCCI official, says plans are still underway to hold the event in India in October and November, despite official COVID cases and deaths continuing to soar.
The International Cricket Council said earlier this month that the organisation has a 'Plan B' should the tournament not be possible in India, and Malhotra has confirmed that would involve moving it to the Middle East.
"It would be the UAE," Malhotra, who is the BCCI's General Manager of Game Development, told the BBC's Stumped podcast.
"We're hoping again that it would be done by the BCCI. So, we'll take the tournament there, but it'll still be done by the BCCI.
"I've just been named one of the tournament directors, so I'm doing everything we can to make sure it happens (in India).
"We will be doing normal scenario, COVID scenario and worst-case scenario, so with all that we're talking to the ICC at the moment.
"As of now, we are targeting and looking at ticket sales and people travelling from all over the world. But again, we don't know what the situation will be at that point in time (in October)."
The UAE proved its ability to stage a major T20 tournament by hosting last year's Indian Premier League, holding 60 matches at just three venues – in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah – in a little more than seven weeks, all in a bio-secure bubble.
The country recorded almost 2000 COVID cases on Thursday, down from a peak of nearly 4000 in late January but has crucially administered more than 10 million vaccine doses to its almost 10 million citizens.
India reported 379,257 new infections and 3645 new deaths on Thursday as that country's health crises worsened, but Malhotra confirmed the BCCI's commitment to the IPL continuing right through until the final on May 31.
Australia, New Zealand, Bangladesh and the United Kingdom – who will all be sending teams to the World Cup this year – recently banned all commercial flights from India due to the current COVID crisis.
The squad sizes for the World Cup has been increased from 23 to 30 players and staff per country, meaning the tournament would involve 480 personnel from 16 countries around the globe.
Kiwi legend Shane Bond, who is in the IPL bubble as an assistant coach at the Mumbai Indians, said a larger event would make it all the more difficult to hold it safely in a COVID-ravaged country.
"It's certainly challenging, there's no doubt about that," he said.
"The uniqueness of the (IPL teams being) privately owned – we have our own hotel, we have net bowlers, all the little things that help you make up a cricket team are taken care of.
"I've been to ICC tournaments before and the number (of personnel) is limited to around 23. If you're only carrying those sorts of numbers, and there are challenges getting in and out of the country, then it's going to make it pretty tough.
"The only way I can see it being made easier is just extra funding … If you can do that, then there's no doubt that in this competition (the IPL) the bubbles are pretty strong. Our one is outstanding.
"The other thing is, in five months' time things might look drastically different with the vaccinations and lockdowns that are going well.
"I'm sure there will be contingencies put in place by the BCCI and the Indian government."