India T20s in Florida '98% on'; return visit in 2017 a possibility
BCCI and WICB officials are confident of securing US visas in time for their respective squads to go ahead with the proposed T20 series in Florida next month. A source with knowledge of the negotiations between the two boards, which took place at the Central Broward Regional Park (CBRP) on Thursday, said that the series is "98% on".
The tentative plan, it is understood, is to hold two T20s on August 27 and 28, following the negotiations in Florida that involved BCCI general manager MV Shridar and WICB commercial manager Nelecia Yeates. Discussions are also believed to involve staging a return visit by both sides in 2017.
For now, the 2% hold-up on finalising the August series is based on multiple factors, including the visa status of players. However, multiple sources have confirmed that the BCCI has already submitted names, photographs and documents for their intended T20 squad to the US Embassy in Jamaica, where the second Test is due to start on Saturday.
There is a sense of urgency to get expedited visas approved for India's dual Test and T20 players at the US Embassy in Jamaica because there is no US Embassy in St Lucia, the venue of the third Test. All US consular affairs in St Lucia are handled by the US Embassy in Barbados. By waiting to file the visa applications until the team gets to Trinidad for the fourth Test, it would leave just a over a week to finalise other logistical aspects with no guarantee that the players' visas will be approved.
Aside from the visas, the WICB also needs to get approval from the ICC to host matches in the USA, though that is a formality with the ICC eager to facilitate as much cricket as possible within the country. ICC chief operating officer Iain Higgins is currently in Florida for the CPL matches and is expected to rubber stamp approval once an application is submitted.
A contract will also need to be arranged with the CBRP and Broward County for stadium rental fees. That may also include paying a fee to accommodate the shifting of an event previously scheduled for August 28 at the stadium. The BCCI is determined to play the matches on a Saturday and Sunday to capitalise on the US expat market, enabling fans to fly into Florida for the weekend.
The start times may also shift at the behest of the BCCI. The CPL matches taking place at the CBRP this week include local start times of 7 pm on the two week nights, and 12 pm and 4 pm doubleheaders for the weekend. The BCCI is pushing for the two T20Is to have a 10 am local start in Florida, which is 7.30 pm in India, allowing a prime-time audience and maximising TV revenue.
One more piece in the puzzle is the ground capacity. The capacity for the CPL has been capped at 10,000, but the CBRP is capable of bringing in more temporary bleachers to hold as many as 20,000 people. The BCCI is angling for the capacity to be maxed out, confident that they can generate two sellouts and maximise gate revenue.
Among the other details to be ironed out are the ticket-pricing policy as well as broadcast rights. Pending the approval of the players' visas along with the other logistical details, the two proposed matches may not be finalised until sometime next week.
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna