So, first things first. As I sat down to write this article, we had an update on the ICC board meeting which was to decide the future of the 2020 T20 World Cup scheduled to take place in Australia this October-November. The ICC deferred the decision on the T20 World Cup to the next meeting scheduled on June 10. There were other interesting things in the press release but that’s for another day.
The past few months have been tough for all. There has been a huge loss of lives and livelihoods. It’s been a huge struggle. The sports industry also has taken a blow. Sport was one of the first segments to face the consequences of this COVID-19 pandemic.
Live sports across the world came to a standstill. All major sporting events had to be cancelled or postponed be it the Euros, Olympics or Wimbledon. When it comes to our cricket calendar, the biggest casualty of this pandemic could be the postponement of the T20 World Cup. Even if the final decision has not been made on this matter, It’s most likely to be postponed.
With this, a new slot opens up for the BCCI to conduct its showpiece event, the Indian Premier League (IPL) in that window. It is a shot in the arm for the BCCI which was looking at a huge loss if the tournament would not have taken place. But everything wouldn’t be so easy for them.
There has been already a certain amount of backlash regarding this prospect. Allan Border and Ian Chappell hit out against this idea with the latter insisting that the players should rather turn out for their respective states in their domestic competition. Boards such as the PCB have also conveyed their displeasure over this issue.
So, let’s look into why conducting an IPL seems much more feasible than conducting the T20 World Cup. Firstly, the sheer amount of teams in the T20 World Cup makes it quite difficult for the organisers. The whole tournament in the current format would involve 16 teams – eight from the Qualifiers and eight who have already qualified to the Super 12 stage.
With each squad expected to have 15 players accompanied by an entourage of support staff, it would be quite difficult to quarantine so many people who are coming from outside the country. In the case of the IPL, we have just eight teams and these sides have at eight foreign players at the most. The rest are all Indian cricketers. Even if we include foreign support staff, the numbers would be way less than those involved in the World Cup. Thus it would be easier to quarantine the squads and conduct regular tests on them.
Secondly, let’s not forget that one of the biggest attractions of hosting any global tournament is the amount of travelling fans and the economy that they bring to these countries. With the prevalent situation, there’s no real chance of crowds being allowed into the stadium, let alone people coming from all over the world. So, it becomes a case of economic loss for the board and the country which they would most likely try to avoid. In the case of the IPL, even if it would be odd to play in empty stadiums, the gate revenue is only a small percentage of the IPL revenues. An IPL behind closed doors would still be a hugely attractive option for stakeholders.
Another factor to consider is the travelling aspect. For sure, the schedule could be tweaked to reduce the travel but as of now, it seems too far-fetched to think so. The matches are spread across a large country which is not ideal in a post COVID-19 world as that would require extensive travel. Being a premier event, they would not want it to be restricted to a particular region of Australia but under current circumstances, it may not be viable.
On the other hand, in case of the IPL, we would definitely see a tournament restricted to a certain amount of venues. Once it is confirmed that fans wouldn’t be allowed anytime soon, there’s no real need for travelling across the country. I feel they would look at places where they could get two to three stadiums within a certain distance, as the game would be just repackaged for the audiences sitting at home. It would work out quite nicely for the league.
These are some of the points that really favour the IPL. Things seem to be definitely headed in that direction. If everything goes well from here on, we could have some cricketing action to look forward to in October. For now, June 10 is D-Day regarding this matter.