The past few days in the world of cricket have seen a flutter of statements from significant parties even though we are far from seeing what this season’s schedule could look like, what with the COVID-19 virus causing uncertainty about how much – and when – cricket will be played.
Cricket Australia (CA) is hopeful of the Indian cricket team touring later this year in the clash of two teams which has – sorry, Ashes – for some years been the most anticipated contest. All indications are that CA would prefer to host India for the Border-Gavaskar Test series instead of the ICC T20 World Cup.
This is because the 16-nation T20 World Cup offers logistical and biosecurity challenges. The ICC is due to meet next week to take a call on the tournament, and if sources are to be believed the T20 World Cup will be postponed from its original October-November slot.
Kevin Roberts, the CA chief executive, has termed India’s visit a “nine out of 10” chance of happening later in 2020. Roberts, though cautiously, has also suggested that Australia could still tour England for the six white-ball games originally scheduled for July.
Speaking of Australia, as per the ICC’s Future Tours Programme (FTP) they are also slated to host a Test against Afghanistan, white-ball matches with India and New Zealand, and then hop across the Tasman for a return series. Clearly not all of these fixtures are going to play out.
In a report on ESPNCricinfo, it was stated that the Indian board (BCCI) has expressed to Cricket South Africa (CSA) its potential readiness to play three T20Is in August. This, of course, is if the COVID-19 situation eases and travel is allowed. Both India and South Africa are still in lockdown.
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As per the FTP, India are next due to play ODIs and T20Is in Sri Lanka and July and then travel to Zimbabwe in August for another white-ball series. The BCCI’s treasurer Arun Dhumal, however, said that the matches against South Africa are the priority.
England’s cricketers look the likeliest to resume training. The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) this week outlined a detail plan in accordance with the UK government’s guidance, which could see the national team resume training next week under strict regulations.
According to a report in The Guardian, England’s cricketers will practice individually at staggered intervals under the gaze of a coach, physio and conditioning coach. During training, all individuals will have to observe strict social distancing and hygiene protocols and reportedly each cricketer will be given a box of balls which only they can use. And as the ICC’s Cricket Committee has outlined, the use of saliva to polish a cricket ball will be prohibited.
Coaches will have their own box of balls for throw-downs to England’s cricketers.
The ECB has called up 18 bowlers for preparation for England’s behind-closed-doors Test matches versus West Indies in July. The details of visits from West Indies and Pakistan are expected to be announced next week.
Speaking to Sky Sports, the chief executive of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Wasim Khan this week said that “as things stand, we are looking forward to the tour”.
Pakistan are due to play England in England for Tests and T20Is and it has been reported that a pool of 25 players for both series could assemble in Lahore in June as part of an extensive locked down camp. The first Test against England starts August 5.
The country is still under lockdown and the worst-case COVID-19 scenario is now predicted in September, according to government projections. South Africa were due to host West Indies for Tests and T20Is in August, but CSA director Graeme Smith has now suggested England as a possible neutral venue. Logistically, this looks near impossible.
Sri Lanka could resume training from the first week of June, and its board has maintained the possibility of hosting India and Bangladesh. In Sri Lanka, curfews are being relaxed and the cricket board is optimistic of being able to host international cricket. Neither the BCCI nor the Bangladesh Cricket Board has responded, however.