Status check: Cricket’s return from COVID-19

470

13th of March was the last time international cricket registered itself in the record books with the COVID-19 pandemic bringing cricket (and the world) to a grinding halt. It was Australia facing New Zealand in the first ODI of the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy which was played at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) behind closed doors.

In fact, 13th of March was also the last time first-class cricket was played when England pulled out midway through their second practice game ahead of their two-Test series in Sri Lanka. Meanwhile, T20 cricket was last seen on the 15th of March when the Pakistan Super League (PSL) finished its league stage before the knockouts were postponed indefinitely.

It’s been close to nine weeks since there’s been any sort of cricketing action. Yes, there has been an odd T10 league here and there (in Taiwan). Apart from that, cricket has been deserted all across the globe and things seem pretty bleak with cricket seeing no signs of resuming any time soon.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a massive shake-up in things already around the cricketing circles. Most cricketing nations have been affected by the corona-virus and have been under lockdown. The cricket boards, particularly the Test-playing nations have had to deal with quite a few things. With the lockdown slowly showing signs of easing out in most countries, the talk around how to get back to cricket has started.

Hence, here let’s dig into each Test-playing nation and see where they stand at the moment and how this COVID-19 pandemic has affected them.

INDIA

  • Being the richest cricket board in the world meant that the BCCI hasn’t really had trouble in dealing with finances.
  • South Africa’s short three-match ODI series was called off back in March and there was no other international cricket planned for India until July. However, the Indian Premier League (IPL) was supposed to be the talk of the town from March 29th to May 27th. But that has been postponed indefinitely.
  • If the 13th edition of the IPL is forced to be scrapped this year, BCCI could incur a loss of a staggering amount of INR 4000 crore (approximately $530 million). That could have a big impact on cricket associations across the country and player contracts which is due to be renewed in October.
  • India is into the fourth phase of the lockdown but this has seen quite a few relaxations with sports complexes and stadiums allowed to open again. However, the BCCI is not in a hurry to start proceedings for the players. There are plans for a pre-season (preparatory) camp. But that or even individual training will only be feasible once the travel restrictions are lifted and conditions are deemed safe.
  • India are due to travel to Sri Lanka next for three ODIs and as many T20Is before they fly to Zimbabwe for three ODIs. England are due to come down to India for a T20I series. Then there’s the Asia Cup in September before the T20 World Cup in Australia followed by the big Test series in Australia (Border-Gavaskar Trophy). None of these have been postponed and there’s been barely any talk about these as well.

ALSO READ: Sunil Narine: The other Sunil who opens the batting

England

  • This is peak England cricket season. The domestic competitions should’ve been underway by now. But everything has been pushed back and postponed and there’s no clarity as to when the domestic season will kick start.
  • England’s international home calendar was supposed to start on June 4th with West Indies visiting for three Test matches followed by a couple against Pakistan. Australia, Ireland and Pakistan were also due to play white-ball games. All of these are uncertain at the moment with the ECB officials hopeful of a July start to the international summer.
  • The inaugural edition of ECB’s newest format, The Hundred has been deferred till 2021. The ECB is hopeful of staging the Vitality T20 Blast towards the end of the summer in place of The Hundred.
  • There’s been news that the England bowlers were supposed to resume training. But with some complications in safety protocols that has been postponed for the time being and everyone is hopeful that it does get underway sometime later this week.
  • With a tight schedule and the ECB trying to cramp all the proposed international matches, there is a possibility of England playing two different formats at the same time.
  • Meanwhile, the ECB have mentioned that men’s cricket will take precedence over the women’s game. India and South Africa women were scheduled to tour them this summer.
  • In case the entire summer gets swept out due to the pandemic, the ECB might be staring at a stunning £380 million (approximately $430 million) loss. Most of them involved in the ECB and also the men’s and women’s cricketers have agreed to take a partial pay cut for a few months.

 

AUSTRALIA

  • Cricket-wise, Australia haven’t lost out on much. It is off-season in Australia and usually, the top players are all in India for the IPL.
  • The Chappell-Hadlee Trophy was abruptly stopped after the first ODI and their tour to New Zealand for a short T20I series was cancelled. Apart from that, there’s not a lot of cricket that Australia lost out on.
  • However, there are a couple of big areas of concern for Cricket Australia (CA) and that is, the T20 World Cup in October to kick the summer off before the big Test series against India which is scheduled to start in December. If that tour gets cancelled, the CA might be in for a loss of about $300 million.
  • The Big Bash League (BBL) in the summer also becomes crucial if we look at it from the financial point of view.
  • However, with the condition in Australia easing out, both those big tournaments/series might be played behind closed doors with quarantining of the teams that arrive.
  • At the moment, Australia’s tour to Bangladesh for a two-Test series has been postponed. They are due to fly to the United Kingdom to face England for a limited-overs leg in July. However, that is definitely postponed with England planning the start their summer only by July. But there are chances that this tour might take place in September.
  • There is some news that the domestic season might get underway on time (around late September) and players might as well get back to training in the upcoming weeks.

 

NEW ZEALAND

  • Like Australia, New Zealand’s cricketing season was almost over as well. They had to return in a hurry from Australia with the pandemic spreading and countries closing borders. The KiwisCricket had to host Australia for a short three-match T20I series which was cancelled.
  • They were scheduled to have a Europe tour where they were to face Ireland, Netherlands and Scotland – that has been cancelled. Their tour to the Caribbean which is scheduled in July looks in jeopardy as well.
  • Financially, New Zealand Cricket hasn’t been affected too much with this being the peak off-season. Moreover, India’s visit in January-February earlier this year could well prove to be the difference-maker and at the moment, there haven’t been any pay-cuts.
  • Moreover, New Zealand also released a fresh list of contracts for the players.
  • But the big worry for New Zealand will be the ICC Women’s World Cup 2021 which is due to be held there next February and March. The board will hope things subside and get normalised as soon as possible in order to host the mega women’s event.

 

SOUTH AFRICA

  • South Africa’s home summer had just come to a close and they were only due to complete a three-match ODI series in India. However, they were sent back after the first ODI which was rained off.
  • A couple of rounds of the domestic first-class competition and the knockout stages of the One-Day domestic competition were left but they’ve been scrapped.
  • Like New Zealand, South Africa’s tour to the Caribbean (two Tests, five T20Is) looks in big doubt. Their white-ball tour to Sri Lanka has already been postponed. Meanwhile, the South Africa women were due to host Australia and travel to the Caribbean as well but that’s been postponed as well.
  • South Africa’s financial condition wasn’t great even before this COVID-19 pandemic as the South Africa Cricketers Association calculated a loss of $54.2 million contrary to the $35.4 million that was expected at the start of the summer.
  • India are due to travel for a small three-match T20I series in August and that tour is slightly uncertain. Cricket South Africa (CSA) will be hoping that India travel for the planned fixtures at least at some point in this financial year to soften the blow. If not, they could be in for a bigger crisis.
  • The lockdown seems to have eased with the government allowing running, walking and cycling between 6 AM and 9 AM. But the planned winter camp by CSA had to be called off.

 

PAKISTAN

  • The Pakistan Super League (PSL) was in full flow when the pandemic forced the world to go into a lockdown. The knockouts couldn’t be completed. Moreover, Pakistan’s international calendar also took a slight hit. Bangladesh were supposed to complete their tour (one ODI and one Test) in late March and early April but that was postponed.
  • Pakistan are supposed to travel to England in July for a Test and T20I series. But with England planning to start their international summer only in July, that will be definitely be postponed. If England resumes cricket, then Pakistan could be visiting them somewhere in August.
  • With the PSL not completing and a few matches being played behind closed doors and other factoring contributing, the PCB incurred a loss of about PKR 200 million (approximately $1.2 million). But it is said that the losses could be recovered as soon as cricket starts once again.
  • The lockdown restrictions seem to have gotten better with domestic flights resuming services. PCB might aim at completing the remaining part of the PSL but the availability of the overseas players might play a big part in the decision-making of that.

 

SRI LANKA

  • Sri Lanka is one of the least-hit countries (especially among Test-playing nations) as far as the COVID-19 casualties are concerned. They haven’t crossed the 1000-mark among the corona-virus patients and the active cases number isn’t too big either – reported to be less than 500.
  • But with other countries hit badly, their resumption of cricket also hangs in the balance.
  • In fact, Sri Lanka had also proposed to host the IPL considering the number of corona-virus cases aren’t too high.
  • India and Bangladesh are due to tour this season and the Indian team’s visit will be a big one as far as the financial side of the debate is concerned. In fact, the Sri Lanka Cricket Board is urging both India and Bangladesh to tour as the pandemic hasn’t hit Sri Lanka very hard.
  • Sri Lanka’s Test series against England was called off and postponed with the England team rushing back midway through the warm-up game. This is another series SLC will be hoping it takes place to stabilize the revenue and the finances.

 

WEST INDIES

  • It was expected to be a busy season for the West Indies. They were scheduled to kick start the season with an away Test series in England before they host New Zealand and South Africa. However, everything seems to be in doubt now.
  • There are murmurs that the England Test series will take place in July but the other two series at home are uncertain. The women’s ODI series against South Africa was also postponed.
  • Finances have never been an ally for the West Indies cricket board. The broadcast deal is also over after Sony Ten decided to not renew theirs late last year. There is a severe cash crunch and the players are yet to be paid since January this year.
  • The board might also be slightly concerned about the Caribbean Premier League which was scheduled to take place between August 19th and September 26th.

 

BANGLADESH

  • When cricket was suspended all over the world, Bangladesh had just finished a series against Zimbabwe and were all set to host a couple of Asia XI vs World XI games to mark the birthday celebrations of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who is considered the father of the nation. However, that was put off along with the Dhaka Premier League, Bangladesh’s domestic One-Day competition.
  • Australia were supposed to tour Bangladesh for a Test series in June and it was marked as one of the big events of the year in Bangladesh cricket but that has been postponed along with Bangladesh’s tour to Ireland. There is no clarity over the country’s visit to Sri Lanka and New Zealand flying down in July and August.
  • There hasn’t been a big financial impact on the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) and wages have been rolling out time to time. However, if this extends, they will get affected sooner rather than later.
  • There are reports that the BCB will likely give its players significant time (about eight weeks) to regain shape in order to play international cricket again. But training and other activities remain suspended at the moment at least until the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr.

 

ZIMBABWE

  • Zimbabwe hasn’t had the best of times in the recent past. They were suspended by the ICC which saw them miss the ICC T20 World Cup Qualifiers last year in October. The suspension was lifted and Zimbabwe had just finished their Bangladesh tour before this lockdown came into effect.
  • Heavily reliant on the ICC for their payments, the Zimbabwe cricket board is suffering from a big cash crunch. The players were paid their dues for the month of February in April.
  • Ireland were due to tour for a six-match series but that got postponed only weeks after it was confirmed.
  • At the moment, the lockdown has been lifted somewhat in the African nation and sporting activities like cricket are free to resume. But there’s no certain future and Zimbabwe will be hoping that the Indian team gives them a visit which is planned for three ODIs in August later this year.

 

IRELAND

  • Ireland cricket has been hit pretty hard with this pandemic. Their entire international home summer has been called off. Bangladesh, New Zealand and Pakistan were supposed to travel to Ireland and each of the series has been scrapped.
  • This is the first time since 2005 that Ireland will not have a single international game at home in the summer. The domestic season, including the Euro T20 Slam, looks unlikely as well.
  • One big hope is that Ireland are due to play three ODIs in England and the board is hopeful that will happen at some stage.
  • Financially, everyone is taking pay cuts, including the CEO and other non-playing staff of the team. Ireland are in a pretty unstable financial condition at the moment.

 

AFGHANISTAN

  • All international cricket Afghanistan played this year were the three T20Is against Ireland in March just before the lockdown.
  • Their only other planned series was the Asia Cup and it was decided that they would travel to Zimbabwe for a five-match T20I series which was outside their FTP.
  • Everyone around has taken a pay-cut including the coaching staff (Lance Klusner, Nawroz Mangal and HD Ackerman). Afghanistan are in dire need of funds with all the spare money being used in this time of crisis.
  • Afghanistan’s premier T20 league, the Shpageeza League might be in jeopardy this year. Afghanistan were also due to play a Test match in Australia which now hangs by a thread considering CA will give the India series priority.