Test cricket might just return to Pakistan later this year. Sri Lanka could be open to playing at least one Test in the country, after a security delegation visited Lahore and Karachi, and gave SLC “very positive feedback”. If everything goes to plan, Pakistan could host its first Test match since the Lahore attack on Sri Lanka’s team bus in March 2009.
The series against Sri Lanka, Pakistan’s first of the World Test Championship, was originally supposed to be played at a neutral venue, but the PCB made SLC an offer to play in Pakistan. With the offer in mind, SLC sent a security delegation headed by Mohan de Silva to assess security arrangements.
The security report, ESPNcricinfo understands, was tabled on Friday in Colombo. “The feedback we got from the security team was very positive,” SLC CEO Ashley de Silva said. “We’ll be talking to the PCB about some alternatives before we arrive at a decision. The government will be consulted as well.”
The biggest concern is understood to be obtaining the players’ consent to tour Pakistan. A Sri Lanka team played one T20I in Lahore in October 2017, but did so without a number of its prominent names. Sri Lanka’s then T20I captain, Upul Tharanga, pulled out, along with Lasith Malinga, Niroshan Dickwella, Suranga Lakmal and Akila Dananjaya. The team was captained by Thisara Perera, and the then SLC president Thilanga Sumathipala and sports minister Dayasiri Jayasekara accompanied the side to Lahore. The brief tour was successful, and was a major stepping stone that paved the way for PCB to convince teams to play more international cricket in Pakistan.
If Sri Lanka do play Test cricket in Pakistan, it will be a reciprocal gesture of sorts. The PCB was the first board to send a team to Sri Lanka following the April 21 bombings in Sri Lanka this year, a Pakistan Under-19 team touring the island a month after the attacks.
There was no top-rung international cricket in Pakistan for six years, following the 2009 Lahore attack, but since 2015, the country has hosted limited-overs games featuring Zimbabwe (2015), World XI (2017), Sri Lanka (2017) and West Indies (2018) apart from a number of Pakistan Super League (PSL) matches. A number of high-profile players have been part of these tours; the World XI side, for instance, was coached by Andy Flower and included five players from South Africa – including Faf du Plessis and Hashim Amla – three from Australia, two from West Indies and one player each from England, Bangladesh, New Zealand and Sri Lanka.
These matches have made some headway towards changing the perception of Pakistan among potential visiting teams, and recently the PCB managing director Wasim Khan presented the country’s case before the MCC World Cricket Committee. He emphasised the importance of bringing international cricket back to Pakistan, and invited the MCC to visit.
“It was a very positive meeting with the MCC,” Wasim said. “Shane Warne, Kumar Sangakkara and Mike Gatting, the chair of the committee, were present there. They wanted to me to present on the current security in the country, along with what impact playing no international cricket here has had, and what can be done to restore it.
“I am very, very confident that we will have an MCC team touring us in the near future. But, there are some matters related to security that need to be covered before they send their team. We will work very closely with the MCC to make sure that the tour happens.”
The MCC World Cricket Committee, headed by Gatting, expressed its support to see the resumption of tours to the nation after 10 years, and said the MCC would be interested in sending a touring team of its own by way of re-opening the door – final security checks pending as ever.
With additional reporting by Andrew Fidel Fernando
Hundred ticket sale delayed due to coronavirus concern
Tickets for the inaugural season of the Hundred will not go on general sale as planned on April 8, the ECB has announced.
Priority tickets for the new competition went on sale in a window in February, with the ECB reporting that initial sales had “surpassed expectations” as an initial allocation for men’s Finals Day tickets sold out within 24 hours.
But with the coronavirus pandemic delaying the start of the English season by at least six weeks and the ability to stage the Hundred in the planned window in doubt, the ECB have decided to delay the next two ticket windows, scheduled for the start of April.
“In the midst of an epidemic which is affecting the nation in unprecedented ways, it would be wholly inappropriate for us to promote and sell tickets to the Hundred,” said Sanjay Patel, the competition’s managing director.
“We appreciate this may cause some disappointment to fans that were keen to purchase tickets in the April sales window, accessing early bird prices and securing tickets to the most in-demand games.
“When it is appropriate to go back on sale, we will of course offer the same ticket offers and accessible pricing. Like the rest of the nation, we all hope that it is not far away before cricket returns to our screens, stadiums, parks and clubs.”
Several counties had already taken their ticketing platforms offline due to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, with many clubs currently operating with a skeleton staff.
While Tom Harrison, the ECB’s chief executive, has signalled that the governing body’s intention is to prioritise the most lucrative competitions, i.e. the T20 Blast and the Hundred, Durham chief executive Tim Bostock suggested last week that if the season is squeezed into a two-month window, it may make sense to delay the new tournament’s first season to 2021.
“It’s pretty clear international cricket comes first, then after that it’s the Blast and the Hundred.,” he told TalkSPORT. “That’s where the revenue is.
“Protecting the Hundred is important, although in the conversations I’ve had with the ECB, if it ends up getting squeezed into a two-month season – which is possible – a view will be taken about whether this is really the right time to launch the Hundred.
“Tom Harrison has been really pragmatic about this. I certainly get the impression if we get a two-month season the pragmatic view would be: what’s the point of launching this competition now? Let’s launch it properly next year.”
Joe Root expects ‘discussion’ on pay cuts as coronavirus uncertainty rules
Joe Root, England’s Test captain, has admitted that he is prepared for the possibility that there is no cricket played at all during the 2020 summer, with the UK currently under lockdown as it battles the coronavirus outbreak. Root also said that he expects conversations to take place “in the coming weeks” about the possibility of players taking pay cuts in order to safeguard the game’s financial future.
England returned early from their tour of Sri Lanka earlier this month, as the pandemic began to take hold around the world, and the ECB has already said there will be no domestic cricket played before May 28. While the governing body is looking into the viability of holding games behind closed doors, Root conceded that scheduled home series against West Indies, Australia, Pakistan and Ireland may not go ahead.
“It has definitely crossed my mind, it is a possibility,” he said. “But I think we have to try to stay optimistic, try to take things day by day, not get too ahead of ourselves, we’ve just got to be ready for whenever that opportunity to play again is.
“We’ve got to stay fit, obviously can’t do much in terms of actual practice, hitting balls and bowling and stuff like that. Might be that my wife has to start giving me some throwdowns in the back garden but until things become that drastic it will be simply sit tight and wait. If that happens, then we’ll just have to adapt, make the most of those circumstances as a cricket community by coming together and doing the best for the game.”
The ECB is expected to announce measures aimed at propping up the professional game in England and Wales, with several counties contemplating “furloughing” their playing staff – effectively placing them on leave, with some of the costs met by the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme. It was also reported at the weekend that centrally contracted England players could be asked to give up around 20% of their earnings, although Root said such matters would be in the hands of the Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA).
“I’m sure at some point in the coming weeks there will be a discussion,” he said. “That’ll probably take place between the PCA and the ECB, and until those happen, that’s not my area of expertise. I think we just have to concentrate on making sure we are as fit and as ready to go as we can be for whenever it is we get back to playing cricket.”
While there are graver issues at stake over the coming weeks and months, cricket’s current shutdown could have several knock-on effects beyond the purely financial – from impacting on the 2020 T20 World Cup to delaying the World Test Championship, with the final currently scheduled to take place in England next year.
Root, who said that over the last two weeks he had “been in touch with every single player” on England’s winter tours, was understandably frustrated at the interruption after overseeing an encouraging 3-1 Test series win in South Africa. But he suggested the enforced break would see an increased appetite for the game among players and spectators when cricket does resume.
“It is frustrating. There are more important things to concern ourselves with but, from a cricketing point of view, we were preparing ourselves well for the two Test matches in Sri Lanka and we made big strides in South Africa. Of course very different conditions but you saw how the warm-up games panned out and how the younger guys adapted with the bat and readied themselves for those Tests – it felt like we were in a very strong position to do something again.
“It would have been nice to get those games in to test ourselves out there against a side on the rise, to see if we could keep building our away form and build on the three brilliant Tests we had last time [in 2018-19]. Going into the summer, the six Test matches [against West Indies and Pakistan] will be crucial points, as the home games seem to be really important in the Test championship. It might be that changes now. When it comes to those games they might have to be rescheduled, play them abroad. I am sure there are a number of different scenarios we may have to find ourselves looking at down the line. Of course it would have been nice to play those two games [in Sri Lanka].
“When you get time like this away from the game when it is unscheduled, guys will be even more determined to come back and play. When that opportunity comes, all the guys will be desperate to start playing again and all of the pent-up energy that will be there from spending time at home will be expended on the field and into performances. Whenever we get back to playing again there will be some very excited players playing it and people watching it.”
Like the rest of the country, Root and his family are observing guidelines to stay at home – he conducted his media duties via video conference call – with cricket activity currently limited to giving his three-year-old son, Alfie, throwdowns.
“I’ve got an exercise bike at home and have generally been using that for my aerobic stuff. I’ve tried to stay isolated as much as possible, trying to get Alf running around the garden or doing something outside with the kits the ECB have kindly sent us. I’m taking this very seriously, trying to stay indoors as much as possible, avoid contact at all costs. It’s pretty impossible to get online shops at the minute. We’ve had one booked for three or four weeks. We’re literally trying to get out as little as possible, be efficient with what we’re buying and use, try to be creative with our cooking, finding different ways of using what we’ve got in the fridge, not wasting anything.”
Having announced at the weekend that he has become a patron of Sheffield Children’s Hospital, Root has also written an open letter to cricket supporters, jointly with England women’s captain, Heather Knight, calling on people to “stay strong and united” and praising those on the frontline in the coronavirus fight.
“It is motivating seeing how powerful it is when people come together and show support for a fantastic organisation like the NHS. We are very lucky to have it. We should appreciate it and not take it for granted. The work they are doing right now is amazing and they deserve all the support and care they are getting. Hopefully that continues long after this pandemic finishes as well.”
David Hodgkiss, Lancashire chairman, dies after contracting coronavirus
David Hodgkiss, the Lancashire chairman, has died at the age of 71 after contracting coronavirus.
Hodgkiss, who had been on the board at Emirate Old Trafford for 22 years, is understood to have had underlying health issues.
Having previously served as treasurer and vice-chairman, he took over from Michael Cairns in April 2017 and was a central figure in the renovation of Old Trafford over the past decade.
“Further to the announcement from his family, it is with great sadness that Lancashire Cricket announces the passing of its Chairman, David Hodgkiss OBE,” read a club statement on Monday morning.
“David served the club with distinction over many years including holding the offices of treasurer, vice-chairman and latterly chairman.
— Matt Parkinson (@mattyparky96) March 30, 2020
“He was much loved by everyone at Lancashire Cricket Club and respected throughout the cricketing world. Our sincere condolences and thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
Colin Graves, the ECB chairman, said: “David was a vital part of cricket in Lancashire and was passionate about growing and developing the sport in the county.
“He played an integral role in the redevelopment of Emirates Old Trafford and Its status as a leading international ground is a testament to his hard work and dedication.
“On behalf of everyone at the England and Wales Cricket Board, our thoughts are with his family, friends and everyone at Lancashire County Cricket Club at this sad time.”
Daniel Gidney, Lancashire’s chief executive, paid his respects on Twittter, writing: “I am absolutely devastated to lose my great friend. RIP David.”
Matt Parkinson, the Lancashire and England legspinner who received his club cap from Hodgkiss in 2018, added: “Such sad news. A great man who always had time for everyone and loved the [red rose]. Will remember his capping speech for a long time
Luke Sutton, the former Lancashire batsman turned player agent, added: “Such sad news. David was a really lovely man who loved Lancashire cricket.”
Hodgkiss also served as chief executive of steel fabrication company the William Hare Group, and was awarded the OBE for services to manufacturing and exporting
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