It’s utter chaos out there. The world is certainly in one of its deepest crises following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has brought life to an unprecedented standstill. With over four lakh deaths worldwide, it has become the fourth deadliest pandemic since the 1918 Spanish flu, which claimed around five crore lives.
Naturally, the pandemic has taken a toll on every aspect of our life, including sports. While football already seems to be on the road to recovery, the same looks like a distant dream for cricket. Starting from international cricketing series, to domestic leagues, including the lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL), the cricketing administrations, along with the fans, are counting days, as they desperately wait for things to get back on track.
Keeping the bilateral series aside, it also seems that the fate of the ICC’s only global tournament of the year, the ICC World T20, hangs in balance. Scheduled to be held in Australia from October, things don’t look good as far as hosting the tournament is concerned. With several travel restrictions imposed in Australia and across the world, along with the concern of playing the matches behind closed doors, things don’t look very promising for the tournament, as of now.
While a call regarding the same is to be taken by the International Cricket Council (ICC) this month, it seems that the global cricketing body is unwilling to take the risk of huge financial loss by hosting it behind closed doors, and a postponement looks very much on the cards.
Meanwhile, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is also contemplating scenarios and contingency plans, having missed out on organizing the IPL this year, so far. Nonetheless, some reports suggest that if the WT20 is postponed this year, the vacant slot could allow BCCI to push for the IPL.
For die-hard cricketing and T20 fans, this might seem like a good piece of news. However, many wonder that if it’s viable to just postpone a global tournament to accommodate a domestic league, like the IPL.
Let us analyze some possible scenarios considering the situation and its effects.
It might seem that in compliance with the directives placed by the Australian government, a postponement is an ideal option for the ICC regarding the WT20. But, is ICC considering the postponement by heart? Surely not. Furthermore, there are reports that Australia would completely ease the current restrictions by the end of September. So, technically, there is still a chance that the tournament could go ahead, provided it is held in a bio-secure environment.
As far as accomodating the fans are concerned, it might not be the best of an idea. However, without having a sell-out crowd, a limited number of fans can surely be allowed inside the venue, with social distancing norms in place. Well…. something is better than nothing.
Now, coming to the IPL, there are reports that the BCCI might be piling pressure on the ICC to postpone the WT20 to accommodate the IPL. Seriously. I mean, I understand that most of the fans love IPL as it is the biggest domestic T20 league in the world. Also, it is no secret that the BCCI earns a fortune every season with this tournament.
As far as IPL’s finance is concerned, the BCCI would lose over ₹400 crores if it fails to host the tournament this season. The title sponsorship of the tournament, by Vivo, itself is worth ₹439.8 crores ($61.7 million) per season. Meanwhile, IPL official broadcaster, Star Sports, has a ₹12 billion (US$170 million) deal for five years (2018-22).
Concurrently, if we look at the positive side of hosting IPL, it is sure to help certain low-grade players, who are struggling financially amidst the tough times, which would put the smiles back on their faces. Furthermore, it would also help the state cricket associations, along with their employees like pitch curator, groundsmen, and many more, financially.
Phew, some huge bucks are certainly at stake and I can totally understand BCCI’s sentiments. However, I also believe that prioritizing IPL over a global tournament is a tremendous insult to international cricket. Keeping the sentiments and the business mindset aside, a domestic league can never replace the charm of international cricket, no matter how competitive, glorious, and lucrative the league is.
Additionally, it is to be noted that the Asia Cup, which was supposed to be held before WT20 has been postponed. While Asia Cup might not be of great significance as compared to the WT20, it is certainly a crucial tournament for smaller teams like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, Nepal, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and many more. Earlier, Pakistan had made it clear that it would not tolerate Asia Cup being moved to a later date, just to accommodate the IPL. It had also requested the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) and ICC to not consider the option.
For the first time, I stand by Pakistan in this regard. However, Pakistan too had its motive, as its players are not allowed to participate in the IPL. Furthermore, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) does not have the same say in both ACC and ICC as the BCCI.
It should also be noted that with the sport currently in a standstill, the players would require some sort of warm-up before the WT20. Considering the same, it is wise to postpone the Asia Cup and accommodate the IPL, as it would allow the warm-up platform for all the players, which would, in return, enable them to perform convincingly at the global stage. Also, there have been talks that the IPL tends to bring in fatigue, thus taking a toll on players’ performance during the WT20. However, the same would not be the case this term, since players are already coming off after serving a mammoth break, and they desperately need fresh momentum, especially heading into a global competition like the WT20.
In the meantime, former Australian legend, Ian Chappell, has made it clear that BCCI will win in its race to host the IPL as the WT20 looks all set to be postponed. “With so many countries, I just think it would be logistically way too difficult, but that’s purely a cricketer talking, not a medical person or someone with experience running a tournament like that. But, it seems to me with 16 teams to worry about it’s probably going to be too hard, and if the BCCI want the IPL to take that slot they’ll probably get their way,” he said.
Also, former Windies legend, Michael Holding, believes that BCCI has every right to host the IPL upon WT20’s postponement. “If there is no T20 World Cup, the BCCI has all the power to go ahead and organize a domestic tournament because there’s a space. If they are encroaching on other people’s tournament, you could say okay,” he opined.
As per my thinking, losing over ₹400 crores by not hosting the IPL would be a tough pill to swallow for the BCCI. I also want to make it clear that I am not against hosting the IPL. If the WT20 is logistically impossible this year, it would be wise to postpone it to a later date, following which the accommodation of the IPL could be highly justified. However, if the WT20 is deliberately postponed to make room for the IPL, I would call it a dark day in cricket.
The WT20 is being held after four years and true T20 fans, like me, have been waiting for it impatiently, whereas IPL is held every year. For once, the BCCI can get out of its business mindset. As far as the financial deprivation is concerned, it’s not just the BCCI, but every cricketing board that is going through a similar tough phase. Trust me, a year without an IPL won’t make a huge difference at all. Moreover, BCCI is already the richest cricket board, and it is at this very time, it should extend its utmost support to other cricketing boards, including the ICC, to help them and their cause in the resumption of international cricket.
In brief: Moving WT20 to accommodate IPL — Not entirely worth it.