The postponement of the 2021 Women's World Cup to 2022 came down to concerns around readiness of the players, and not safety in New Zealand, the event's CEO Andrea Nelson has said. As ESPNcricinfo had reported on Friday, Nelson said that given three participating teams are still to be identified and several sides "can't train" yet, postponement was the best option.
The qualifier for the tournament was supposed to be held in July, but was postponed due to the pandemic. So, for now, England, Australia, South Africa, India and hosts New Zealand are confirmed participants, with three more spots open in the eight-team tournament.
"It came down to the ability of the teams to qualify," Nelson told NZME. "We've done a lot of contingency planning around this event, to give it the best possible chance of proceeding successfully - ultimately the decision to delay it comes down to cricket. No qualifying tournaments have been able to be held yet, so in order to qualify and then compete in the event in 2021 - it was too risky.
"We've got teams that can't train, they can't assemble - in the case of a country like the West Indies they can't leave their islands to bring the team together - and that's just not a feasible way to ask a team to prepare for their pinnacle event."
New Zealand has been one of the least affected countries worldwide by Covid-19. As of Sunday morning, there were only 23 active cases in the country, according to their Ministry of Health's official numbers, and these were all at the borders - that is, people testing positive when they fly in from elsewhere, and going straight into quarantine. In mid-June, New Zealand had even welcomed back fans into a packed stadium for a Super Rugby Aotearoa game in Dunedin.
High-profile women players England captain Heather Knight and Australia wicketkeeper-batter Alyssa Healy have raised concerns over the postponement. Nelson, though, said pushing the tournament would allow players to be at their best for it.
"Having the tournament in 2022 gives the best possible chance for teams around the world to train, prepare, and come and compete in their pinnacle event," she said. "We have absolutely no doubt we'll be able to pick up those plans and deliver an amazing event a year later."
The qualifier was originally slated to be held in Sri Lanka in July this year, and has also been pushed back by a year. Sri Lanka is likely to remain the host, with its team competing for one of the three remaining spots in the main event.