BCCI asks ECB to rejig Test series schedule for IPL window
Requests the possibility of advancing series start and end by a week
The BCCI has put in a late request to the ECB to bring forward the start and the end of the five-Test series by a week, in a bid to complete the pandemic-interrupted 2021 IPL season. ESPNcricinfo has learned the request was put in this week and the ECB is yet to respond.
As things stand, the first Test is scheduled to begin on August 4 and the series to end on September 14. The move is aimed at having a longer window in September to finish the remainder of the IPL season, which was suspended midway due to a growing number of Covid-19 cases among players and staff.
The series opener in Trent Bridge from August 4-8 will, according to the current schedule, be followed by Tests at Lord's (August 12-16), Headingley (August 25-29), The Oval (September 2-6) and Old Trafford (September 10-14).
If the final Test ends around September 7, it would give the BCCI a three-week window - which is how much time the board feels it needs - to complete the remaining 31 games. That would then allow time for international teams to converge for the T20 World Cup, which is to run from the middle of October and until November 14.
When approached, the ECB said no official request had yet been made by the BCCI.
Such a change, though, could disrupt the ECB's plans, not least the schedule of The Hundred. For one, it would mean the Test series starting just a week after the launch of the tournament, which is scheduled to run from July 21 to August 21. And given that The Hundred's games are being played at grounds at which the Tests are meant to be staged, it could require some venue rescheduling, which could in turn impact hotel bookings, bio-bubble arrangements, broadcast schedules, and ticket sales for the affected Tests.
It would also impact the window that had been allocated to allow England's top players to make appearances in the tournament. England's Test players were meant to be available for up to three group games at the start of The Hundred, and then the Eliminator and the Final (currently scheduled between the second and third India Tests) if their teams qualify.
The ECB will also have a lot of explaining to do to the affected counties as well as the fans who have already bought tickets for the India-England tour, the marquee series of the summer.
Currently, days one and three are sold out with limited availability on days two and four for the Trent Bridge Test; at Lord's, day one is limited while days two to four are sold out; The Oval is already sold out for the first four days; Headingley has availability on the first two days while the third and fourth days are sold out; at Old Trafford the first three days have been sold out.
The request brings into sharp focus the havoc the pandemic has wreaked on the cricket calendar. It is currently unclear, for instance, where the remainder of the IPL will actually be held. The UAE has been tipped as a frontrunner to host it, and English counties and Sri Lanka have also expressed an interest. Though the T20 World Cup is scheduled to be hosted by India, that destination has become less certain in the wake of the second wave of Covid-19 the country is currently in the grip of. Realistically, the BCCI has only two windows in which to finish the IPL, which fall on either side of the T20 World Cup.
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo