CHENNAI: With India in the grip of a strong Covid-19 second wave, the International Cricket Council (ICC) is expected to take a final call on whether the upcoming T20 World Cup can be hosted here by June. Even though the tournament scheduled for October-November is still six months away, there are concerns whether India — which is the second-most affected Covid-19 nation in the world — would be a safe place to host the event.
A clear picture was expected after the ICC's recce team scheduled to visit India later this month accessed the ground situation. But there are indications that the trip could be postponed in the wake of the increasing numbers in the country. As far as the BCCI goes, it is confident that it can host the event and believes the successful conduct of the ongoing IPL will establish its ability. It is understood that the BCCI will cite the current vaccination drive to leverage some more time, at least till the end of July, but whether the ICC is prepared to wait remains to be seen.
What is making things complicated is that India is in the red-list of UK government, which makes it mandatory for their citizens to be placed in quarantine at state-approved hotels. There are similar restrictions for those entering New Zealand and Australia. In a such a scenario, their respective teams may have reservations to travel to India.
“It is still a work in progress. If the situation improves, then India can still host it. But not at nine venues as proposed by the BCCI. There is still enough time to consider the pros and cons and since it is an evolving situation, any decision has to be taken in the interest of all concerned parties. Safety cannot be compromised,” a source familiar with the development told this paper.
Even if the tournament stays in India, there is a strong likelihood that the ICC will not agree to host the tournament in nine venues as proposed by the BCCI. The Indian board has picked Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Dharamsala, Lucknow and Ahmedabad as host cities. Having so many venues means the ICC has to set up bio-bubbles in each of these cities which will not only add to the cost but also logistically will be more challenging.
Last month, ICC's interim CEO Geoff Allardice said they have back-up plans in place should India be not able to host the event. The ICC had picked the UAE and Sri Lanka as alternate venues to host the 2021 edition and with the gulf region also among severely affected, the Island nation, is likely to be narrowed down as back-up. Sri Lanka has already hosted the event in 2012 and on April 19, reported only 309 new cases as of Tuesday.