World Cup call paves the way for summer like no other
Cricket Australia committed to completing a full international summer, but concedes the schedule could change again given the global uncertainty
21 July 2020, 03:40 PM AEST
The ICC's decision to postpone this year's planned men's T20 World Cup has afforded cricket authorities worldwide greater clarity for scheduling purposes and enables Cricket Australia to focus fully on delivering its 2020-21 program.
While the uncertainty that enshrouds all event planning amid the global coronavirus pandemic means it is unknown if Australia will host the showpiece tournament next year or in 2022, CA's interim CEO Nick Hockley indicated either outcome would be welcomed.
He reiterated the ICC's rationale for not yet confirming which of Australia or India would stage the planned T20 World Cups in October-November 2021 and 2022 was to give both nations the best possible chance to deliver a successful tournament against the backdrop of COVID-19.
"Whether it's 2021 or 22 in Australia, we will put on a fantastic event," Hockley said, adding the current view is the postponed tournament would be rescheduled with the same "footprint", number of competing teams and matches.
"If it's 2021, the plans are really well progressed and we're really well placed to deliver that event.
"Equally if it's 2022, it will be a fantastic event and in many ways it gives even more time to create certainty around the health situation because no-one knows how long this is going to last."
It’s the uncertainty relating to freedom of movement across international and domestic borders as well as the vast costs that accompany the creation and operation of bio-secure environments that led the ICC, as had been widely predicted, to abandon plans for a 16-team tournament in Australia this year.
But with the question of how CA (as the host board) and the local organising committee (that successfully delivered the women's T20 World Cup earlier this year) might stage such a logistically complex tournament now deferred, planning turns to a no-less-complicated summer schedule.
CA has already released its proposed men's and women's international fixtures as well as the BBL and WBBL program for 2020-21 and, while stressing that a "level of flexibility" will be needed as the health landscape changes, Hockley noted CA plans to delivers the schedule as it stands.
That includes the proposed historic one-off men's Test against Afghanistan at Perth Stadium beginning on November 21, even though the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is expected to utilise the now vacant October-November window in the international schedule to hold its lucrative IPL.
"At the moment, we're scheduled to play Afghanistan in Perth and we'll be doing everything we can to get those opening bowlers to the top of their run and get cricket back being played," Hockley said today.
"As we work through all the different scenario planning, and as we do real-time monitoring of the health situation and the restrictions, that will inform our planning.
"If there's a change to the current schedule, then we'll be making announcements in due course.
"Currently we're planning to go ahead, but there's lots to work through and a lot that can happen between now and then."
BCCI President Sourav Ganguly has recently reaffirmed India's commitment to touring Australia later this year for a four-Test Border-Gavaskar Trophy Series as well as a three-game Gillette ODI campaign.
Earlier this month, Ganguly told an India television show the BCCI would be seeking a reduction in the number of days players might have to serve in quarantine upon entering Australia "because we don't want the players to go all that far and sit in hotel rooms for two weeks".
Hockley said today that while those protocols are set by government and health authorities, CA was mindful of ensuring international visitors – and Australia players returning from overseas commitments such as the IPL – have access to "optimal" training facilities while observing quarantine requirements.
CA has been closely liaising with their England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) counterparts to glean information gathered from the current England-West Indies Test series, the first international cricket fixtures since world sport entered lockdown.
Hockley noted the yet-to-be-completed hotel at Adelaide Oval drew close parallels to facilities provided at England's bio-secure Test venues at Southampton and Manchester, and that was one consideration for cricketers entering Australia in coming months.
"It's unlikely international travel restrictions will have lifted by time India are due to come into the country, so clearly there will be testing regimes," he said.
"The reality is we will be able to test people before they get on the plane and then it's a situation of making sure we've got the quarantine arrangements in line with government and health authority protocols.
"What we're working on is making sure that, even within that quarantine environment, that players have got the absolute best training facilities so their preparation for the matches is as optimal as it can possibly be.
"Whether it's a hotel on site, or whether it's hotels in close proximity to venues, creating that environment where we're minimising the risk of infections and creating a bio-secure environment is the absolute priority.
"There's a huge amount at stake if we're unable to do that.
"Adelaide Oval has got a hotel (due for completion in September), and we're obviously in discussion with all venues, but that does provide a facility not dissimilar to Old Trafford (in Manchester) or the Ageas Bowl (Southampton) where a hotel is integrated into the venue."
Hockley conceded that in the absence of certainty due to the ongoing pandemic, clarity such as that flowing from the ICC's decision overnight (and with an IPL announcement expected this week) was vital to finalising a full summer schedule.
He said CA was also being regularly informed by codes such as the Australian Football League, National Rugby League and Super Netball that are currently mid-season and dealing with the daily complexities of programming and delivering matches.
But he also noted there were unique challenges in fixturing men's and women's international and domestic cricket games in an ever-changing environment.
"I think what's different for cricket is that we've got - between now and through the summer - an overseas (men's) tour outbound potentially to England, we're bringing international teams in both women's and men's, we've got two domestic leagues in the WBBL and BBL, and then we've got all the domestic cricket competitions," Hockley said.
"So whereas other sports have been focused on a singular league, we do have this portfolio of cricket across all the different formats and that brings with it its own massive set of complexities.
"What's clear is we're going to need to have a level of flexibility, and it's by no means going to be a normal summer.
"In relation to the T20 World Cup, with international borders currently closed and requiring exemption and the same with some state borders, the prospect of bringing 15 teams in and moving them around the country … the decision to postpone the event was absolutely inevitable.
"But it allows us to focus with real clarity on the summer ahead, and we've got a brilliant summer to look forward to."