Coronavirus – how it has affected cricket in England and worldwide
Cricket obsessives are usually never far away from their next fix, such is the proliferation of top-level matches across a growing range of formats.
The onset of the coronavirus pandemic has ripped the exhausting international calendar front to back, replacing the usual treadmill of fixtures with little more than a blank hole.
Here, The News looks at what has been affected and what might come next.
What postponements have been confirmed?
England are effectively on hiatus, having beaten a hasty retreat from Sri Lanka midway through a tour match in Colombo. That two-match series is due to be re-arranged, potentially for January, but no decisions have been made yet. The wider game has been put on hold until at least May 28, pushing back the start of the Specsavers County Championship and sweeping seven rounds of fixtures with it. Similar decisions have been taken globally, with the lucrative Indian Premier League – the most watched domestic cricket tournament in the world - pushed back to an optimistic start date of April 15. Ad-hoc decisions were taken elsewhere, with India and South Africa intending to play two impacted ODIs in the future and Australia and New Zealand agreeing to scrub two from the books after playing one game in an empty stadium. Ireland have had to postpone two important series, away in Zimbabwe and home to Bangladesh.
What is the plan for the English season?
The ECB have made it clear that they will prioritise its most lucrative forms of cricket when the green light finally comes. That means all England internationals leap to the front of the queue, starting with the first Test of the summer against the West Indies from June 4. There are two England games scheduled for Hampshire’s Ageas Bowl – against Australia (ODI, July 14) and Pakistan (T20, September 2). After that the popular Vitality Blast Twenty20 tournament and the inaugural season of The Hundred will be pushed back. To the likely disappointment of purists and county members, the championship is almost certain to be reduced and could yet be cancelled entirely for a year. The fact the ECB have said no county cricket will take place before May 28 has effectively seen Hampshire’s first six Championship games cancelled.
What are the options?
Modelling has been undertaken to take under consideration resumption of cricket in June, July and August, as well as the doomsday scenario of a fully fallow campaign. Each version implies different volumes of cricket, but changing the span and design of competitions appears highly probable in any circumstance.
Who is involved in the decisions?
The ECB is ultimately responsible, via its board, but key stakeholders including all 18 first-class counties, the MCC, broadcasters and the Professional Cricketers' Association are involved in discussions.
Could cricket be played behind closed doors this summer?
Absolutely. English attendances are the envy of the cricketing world and Test captain Joe Root has already spoken about the wrench he would feel if fans were kept away, but needs must. If games can safely take place in a sterile environment, they would surely do so. With so much sport canned in the coming months, the sight of elite athletes competing would be a welcome sight in television and radio schedules and help ease the coming fixture crush.
What about the World Test Championship?
After years of deliberation, the International Cricket Council finally pulled the trigger on a codified tournament for the most prestigious format. The first final is due to be played at Lord's in June 2021, but the prospect of completing all scheduled series in time seems a stretch. Behind the scenes the ICC are currently engaged in contingency planning, but with no real time pressure the specifics do not need to be settled imminently.
And what of the Twenty20 World Cup in October?
The competition is still scheduled to take place, comprising seven host cities in Australia. The ICC have not yet raised any doubts about it taking place on time and as planned, with tickets still on sale. Event
s beyond sporting control will dictate whether it ultimately goes ahead.