Finding a fresh window for the now-postponed Indian Premier League (IPL) 2020 will be a challenge for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). The International Cricket Council (ICC) told the Outlook that there were no plans to put off or cancel the World T20 championship in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The ICC indicated that the October 18-November 15 T20 World Cup will go ahead as per plans in Australia and there have been no talks of accommodating the IPL. The ICC treats the IPL as a domestic tournament of the BCCI.
"We are continuing with our planning for ICC events as they are, but given the rapidly evolving situation, as a prudent and responsible measure, we are also undertaking a comprehensive contingency planning exercise. This includes exploring all options available to us based on a range of scenarios connected to the pandemic," said an ICC spokesperson to Outlook's query on IPL being staged in place of the World T20.
WHERE IS THE SLOT?
IPL 2020 was originally scheduled between March 29 and May 24. On April 16, the BCCI officially postponed the tournament till further notice. Although cricket activities have been suspended, BCCI officials, team owners and broadcasters (STAR Sports) are busy trying to figure out a solution to host this year's tournament. Finding the right slot is the first and most important step.
Delhi Capitals think-tank in a serious discussion. Courtesy: BCCI
Former IPL chairman Rajeev Shukla told Outlook that "September-October" was a distinct possibility since the "weather was still good to host more number of doubleheaders to manage the packed schedule." He also added: "IPL taking place also depended on the World T20 happening or not."
According to international cricket's original schedule, the Asia Cup, organised by the Asian Cricket Council, was scheduled between September 24 and October 6. It was slotted to become the precursor to the T20 World Cup. It is Pakistan's turn to host the tournament, possibly at a neutral venue (Dubai) given their political relationship with India.
THE PAKISTAN HURDLE
Even if BCCI tries to convince the cricket boards of Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka to defer the tournament to accommodate IPL, Pakistan may object mainly because of financial reasons. Plus, no Pakistan players feature in the IPL.
Then there are other tournaments or series between July-September. The Caribbean Premier League (CPL) 2020 is slotted for August 19 to September 26. It features the world's top T20 players and all top guns from the West Indies. CPL officials have already declined to reschedule their tournament to accommodate IPL.
Between July-September, Australia, England, Bangladesh, New Zealand and South Africa are all scheduled to play a lot of bilateral cricket, especially T20s, to prepare for the World Cup.
NOT EASY FOR ICC
While it is clearly becoming a logistical nightmare to find a window for the IPL that features 60 matches over 57 days, BCCI will have to find an improbable ally in ICC, for whom hosting the T20 World Cup is the big focus. According to well-placed sources, a discussion on staging the World Cup in Australia will take place "only in the annual meeting in July in Johannesburg".
Big stars always draw big. Courtesy: BCCI
But staging the World Cup is also going to be a challenge for the ICC. To make sure all 16 nations are in perfect health and free from any COVID-19 infection will be easier said than done. And the ICC agrees.
"We will continue to take advice from experts and authorities, including the Australian government and will take decisions at the appropriate time. We will utilise all data and information available to us to ensure we can take well-informed, responsible decisions that are in the best interests of our sport," said the ICC spokesperson.
MONEY, MONEY, MONEY!
For the ICC, it is important to host the World Cup. All member nations stand to benefit from the earnings the ICC makes. At a time when several Test-playing nations like South Africa, New Zealand and Pakistan are not in great health financially, hosting a World Cup becomes all the more important for ICC.
Cheerleaders doing their bit to entertain the fans. Courtesy: BCCI
According to an eight-year revenue model approved by the ICC Board in 2017, BCCI will receive $293m across the eight-year cycle, ECB $143m, Zimbabwe Cricket $94m and the remaining seven Full Members $132m each. Associate Members will receive funding of $280m. This model, based on the principle of equity, good conscience, and growth, was passed 13 votes to one (India). ICC's major earnings come from hosting world tournaments.
With close to Rs 6,000 crores at stake for the BCCI and IPL 2020 stakeholders, Indian cricket is clearly at a dilemma. That a virus would bring the world's richest cricket board to its knees and make the Sourav Gangulys and Jay Shahs work overtime, was never budgeted for.