Push T20 World Cup to 2021? Rework WTC? Scrap ODI League?
ICC and member boards confronted with difficult questions in coming months
With the COVID-19 pandemic locking the world down, the ICC, like all global sports organisations, has been busy working on contingency plans for their events this year: the men's T20 World Cup, which is scheduled to be hosted in Australia later this year, the ongoing World Test Championship (WTC) and the new ODI League - the pathway for teams to qualify for the men's 2023 ODI World Cup - which was scheduled to start from May.
ESPNcricinfo understands the ICC has already started jotting down early back-up plans but these aren't concrete yet, as the pandemic remains a fluid situation. But below are some of the options under consideration.
Will the 2020 T20 World Cup be cancelled?
As of now, the ICC is not considering what would be the worst-case scenario. But in the event that the tournament cannot take place this year, a more feasible option could be pushing the event to next year and defer the 2021 edition of the T20 World Cup, which is scheduled in India next October, to 2022.
Cricket Australia's chief executive Kevin Roberts sounded optimistic about the event going ahead as per schedule (in Australia in October-November), but in case it does not, the biggest challenge the organisers could face will be the absence of free space to accommodate the tournament later in the year in Australia. Immediately after the T20 World Cup, Australia are scheduled to host Afghanistan for a one-off Test in late November followed by a four-Test and three-match ODI series against India which is scheduled to stretch until January 2021.
Another option the ICC might think of exploring is utilising the gap year that is 2022 which currently does not have an ICC global event. But for that alternative, the ICC along with Cricket Australia and BCCI, the hosting boards for the next two T20 World Cups, would need to sit down and carve out an alternate window which then would need to be synced with the larger Future Tours Programme (FTP).
What happens to the WTC?
India occupy the top slot on the WTC points table, but a 2-0 defeat in New Zealand recently has thrown the race wide open. But now, many series that form part of the WTC will need to be adjusted and deferred. Bear in mind the first cycle is due to end next March, with the final scheduled at Lord's in June. What happens if there is not enough time to accommodate all the series each of the nine teams are supposed to play (six each)?
Will the top two teams, in terms of WTC points table currently, play the final when cricket resumes? Or should the WTC model be reworked to restore parity? It will not be easy given several teams have barely played one series so far under the WTC. Should the WTC final then be deferred to allow all teams play equal number of series to stand an equal chance to make the summit? That would have implications for the second edition of the WTC which was meant to be played from 2021-23. More likely, the current FTP, which runs until 2023, will need to be re-looked at in its entirety.
What about the Cricket World Cup Super League - scrap it?
The ODI Super League is scheduled to be played between May 1 this year and March 31, 2022, serving as the qualification pathway for the 2023 World Cup. There are 13 teams, including the 12 Test-playing countries along with Netherlands, who will play eight series over a two-year cycle on a home-and-away basis against mutually-agreed opponents. The Super League was put in place to add context to ODI cricket. The administrators will need to decide if it should be postponed altogether, or reduce the number of series when cricket resumes.
The most drastic step, which cannot be ruled out, is doing away with the Super League. In such a scenario the qualification process for the 2023 World Cup would need to be reworked.
When will the ICC decide on these matters?
There is no cut-off date yet chalked out by the ICC. The issue is listed on the agenda for the ICC quarterly meetings scheduled for May 8 to 10, potentially in Dubai based on government regulations, when the chief executives committee and the ICC board are scheduled to meet in person.
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo