A world event

K Shahid looks at the various arguments surrounding the staging of the ICC World T20 this year

A world event
As discussed last week, with the Covid-19 pandemic impacting the sports world, the debate on the scheduling of the ICC World T20 is the only one in the cricket realm that is relevant, and in turn critical. The latter because many other tours will be impacted by the decision on the ICC World T20, not to mention the financial cycles for the revenues to be generated by the cricket boards.

As things stand, there are three options for the ICC World T20. The first is optimistic and envisions a scenario where the global health concerns have eased to a point that a multinational sporting event can be hosted in October, with over a million in cumulative attendance across weeks in Australia. The second is to host the ICC World T20 in the same slot but play the tournament behind closed doors. The third branches out into postponement and annulment.

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Given the unprecedented times, innovative solutions are needed to limit the financial damage to cricket

In Pakistan’s case the World T20’s fate is even more critical than other visiting nations given that it is likely to directly impact the Asia Cup, which is currently slated for September. Pakistan has the hosting rights for the tournament, which is likely to take place outside the country given that India will not agree to tour Pakistan. And the only way the Asia Cup – which is to be played in the T20 format as a build up to the World Cup – will go ahead in September, is if the World Cup is played out as per schedule in October-November.

Now, of the three abovementioned cases, there is one that needs to be thoroughly discouraged, even though it is still being widely discussed as a possibility. That is to host the World Cup behind closed doors.

The only reason this scenario would go ahead would be financial, with the ICC hoping to make sufficient money from broadcast and sponsors even without any spectators entering the stadia. However, should the potential revenue generated from the event being played behind closed doors suffice in making it a financially viable exercise, the money would still be significantly less than what the tournament would generate otherwise – a possibility that might be in the offing a few months later.

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Hence, all efforts need to be made to ensure that the ICC World T20 is held with crowds in attendance. And that should take place in accordance with the advisory of the global health organisations.

While the financial questions usually find a way to answer themselves, the bigger question would be over the scheduling – or to be more precise the contrasting impacts the scheduling would have on various countries.

A cricket calendar year isn’t the same for all cricketing nations, and their boards, which means postponements and annulments of bilateral series are likely to impact certain countries more than others.

If it were a 12-month window, perhaps completely postponing everything by a year would’ve been the logical decision. The same goes for events held once every four years like the Olympics or the Euro 2020, both of which have been postponed till 2021.

However, should there be, hypothetically, a six-month window from March to September, which is wiped out, how does the rescheduling take place? Because, the next months would have their originally scheduled tours and tournaments as well – which in this particular example includes the Asia Cup and World T20.

Pakistan has the hosting rights for Asia Cup 2020

A solution being proposed for the playing out of the entire postponed schedule in synchrony with the original calendar suggests that cricket nations participate in multiple series at the same time. For example England, who are scheduled to play the West Indies and Pakistan this summer, have considered playing two different squads away in the Caribbean and at home, possibly over two different formats.

Given that these are unprecedented times, innovative solutions would be needed to limit the financial damage to the sport. And that might need, more so than ever, a collective approach and proportionate compromises.