On Tuesday (June 29), the T20 World Cup was officially shifted outside India to the Middle East by the International Cricket Council (ICC) following a written admission from the BCCI that the marquee tournament can’t be safely held here due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The governing body confirmed that the T20 World Cup will now be played in UAE and Oman in the October-November window, with the two countries managing the viral outbreak well and proving safer destinations to host the 16-team competition.
Initially, the tournament was set to be played in UAE alone at its three most prominent venues – Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. However, the ICC recognised the need to keep the pitches fresh through the event and thus Oman, UAE’s associate brethren, also came on board.
That, since UAE is also set to play host to the remaining portion of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021 just prior to the T20 World Cup – a major bone of contention that has brought the surfaces in greater focus and scrutiny.
Focus on pitches with UAE set to double up as host for IPL 2021 and T20 World Cup
Known for their traditionally slow nature, the playing squares in Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi already tend to have a lot of cricket on them right through the year. But they’ll now also be required to host 29 matches of the IPL 2021 in just over three weeks before doubling up as host for guaranteed 33 T20 World Cup matches (there could be more depending on how many preliminary round matches are scheduled in Oman).
That’s over 60 T20 games divided in only three grounds in a space of two months – a herculean task, although one that UAE has previously also pulled off handsomely with the IPL 2020 last year. The challenge for the groundsmen will be to repeat their excellent work from last winter and ensure the global audience that watches these games is entertained and can fondly remember the tournament they witnessed. Even though you want a level-playing field, it’s true that a bowler-dominated T20 game doesn’t make for as good a spectacle.
One way to avoid excessive wear and tear on surfaces right through the IPL 2021 and T20 World Cup could be to adapt a caravan system and play matches in one block at a time at different venues. With the ground in Muscat, Oman providing a week or ten days long breather in-between, which is why it would be prudent to play the entire first round of T20 World Cup games there and let UAE only host the Super 12s and knock-outs.
Historically, the ICC curators and groundsmen have done a fantastic job of providing balanced tracks and will be hoping to once again play a key part in enhancing the popularity of a major world event.