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T20 World Cup postponed, but Proteas still focused on white-ball game

T20 World Cup postponed, but Proteas still focused on white-ball game
Tabraiz Shamsi of South Africa, far right, celebrates taking the catch to dismiss Mitch Marsh of Australia with team-mates during the 3rd KFC T20 International match between South Africa and Australia at Newlands Cricket Stadium in Cape Town on 26 February 2020. (Photo: Grant Pitcher / Gallo Images)

A spike in coronavirus cases in Australia in recent weeks was a major factor in forcing the International Cricket Council to postpone the 2020 men’s T20 World Cup to October 2021.

As large portions of the sporting world start to make comebacks after months of lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the International Cricket Council (ICC) was forced on Monday to postpone one of its flagship events. 

The T20 World Cup will now be held back-to-back in 2021 and 2022 after the 2020 event was delayed by a year. The (2020) T20 World Cup will take place in October-November 2021 in Australia. The Cricket World Cup (50 overs) scheduled for February and March 2023 in India will go ahead in October and November that year. 

David Miller of South Africa during the 3rd KFC T20 International match between South Africa and Australia at Newlands Cricket Stadium in Cape Town on 26 February 2020. (Photo: Ashley Vlotman / Gallo Images)

The 2020 T20 World Cup was originally scheduled to be played from 18 October to 15 November this year, with Melbourne hosting the final as well as six other matches. But the increase in Covid-19 cases in the state of Victoria in particular, which has just gone into a six-week lockdown, has made the situation increasingly untenable. 

A two-week quarantine and isolation period upon entry into Australia has further made the smooth running of the competition unlikely. 

At Monday’s meeting of the IBC Board (the commercial subsidiary of the ICC), windows for the next three ICC men’s events were agreed on to bring clarity to the calendar and give the sport the best possible opportunity over the next three years to recover from the disruption caused by Covid-19. 

Cricket South Africa (CSA) director of cricket Graeme Smith had expected this outcome and the Proteas have already planned ahead.

“Our focus on the short term is going to be on white-ball cricket because there is a lot of it coming up in our calendar,” Smith told the Maverick Sports Podcast last month. 

“The T20 World Cup may be shifted out because of the pandemic, and in that case we could have two World Cups in a short space of time, so our focus is white-ball based. Test cricket is limited for us over the next two years. 

“Our members now have the clarity they need around event windows to enable them to reschedule lost bilateral and domestic cricket. Moving the Men’s Cricket World Cup to a later window is a critical element of this and gives us a better chance of maintaining the integrity of the qualification process. This additional time will be used to reschedule games that might be lost because of the pandemic, ensuring qualification can be decided on the field of play. 

“The ideal model is to be successful across the board in all forms of the game. At the moment we have a lot of players sitting at a similar level and our aim is to grow the quality of the playing pool. Our goal would be to win an ICC World Cup – we have been close a few times – and I felt we would have been able to put a good squad together for the T20 World Cup this year.” 

The IBC Board agreed to continue to monitor the rapidly changing situation and assess all the information available to make a considered decision on future hosts to ensure the sport is able to stage safe and successful global events in 2021 and 2022. 

The IBC Board will also continue to evaluate the situation in relation to being able to stage the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2021 in New Zealand in February next year. In the meantime, planning for this event continues as scheduled.

ICC Chief Executive Manu Sawhney said: “We have undertaken a comprehensive and complex contingency planning exercise and through this process, our number one priority has been to protect the health and safety of everyone involved in the sport.

“The decision to postpone the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup was taken after careful consideration of all of the options available to us and gives us the best possible opportunity of delivering two safe and successful T20 World Cups for fans around the world.

“Our members now have the clarity they need around event windows to enable them to reschedule lost bilateral and domestic cricket. Moving the Men’s Cricket World Cup to a later window is a critical element of this and gives us a better chance of maintaining the integrity of the qualification process. This additional time will be used to reschedule games that might be lost because of the pandemic, ensuring qualification can be decided on the field of play. 

“Throughout this process, we have worked closely with our key stakeholders including governments, members, broadcasters, partners and medical experts to enable us to reach a collective decision for the good of the game and our fans. I would like to thank everyone involved for their commitment to a safe return to cricket.” 

The change to the calendar has also opened the door for individual cricket boards to negotiate bilaterally to replace some fixtures, Covid-19 restrictions permitting.

But it is more likely that the postponed 2020 Indian Premier League (IPL), which should have taken place in March-May will replace the T20 World Cup in the calendar. 

“These decisions provide just the clarity we need not only to revise our own Future Tours Programme but to see that our Proteas Men and Proteas Women have the best possible preparation for in these important tournaments,” said CSA acting chief executive Jacques Faul. 

“A number of series for both our Proteas Men and Women have had to be postponed because of the coronavirus and I would like to assure all our stakeholders that we are planning for an exciting future both at international and domestic level.” DM

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