As India battles a raging Covid-19 pandemic, the BCCI is preparing for the “worst case scenario” of moving the 2021 men’s T20 World Cup to the UAE. The marquee event, comprising 16 countries, is scheduled to take place in India between October and November this year, with the final on November 14.
“I hope so. I am doing everything we can to make sure that it happens,” Dhiraj Malhotra, the tournament director for the T20 World Cup, said on the BBC’s Stumped podcast this week. “We will be doing normal scenario, Covid-scenario, worst case scenario. All that we are in talks with the ICC at the moment.”
The record surge in the Covid infections in the country recently, including a mounting death count, has prompted the cricket fraternity to start asking whether India could be fit to host the World Cup which is less than six months away.
According to Malhotra, who took charge this February as BCCI’s general manager of cricket operations and game development, the Indian board had plans to “take” the T20 World Cup to the UAE as a contingency measure if the ICC found India to be unsafe. “It would be (the) UAE. And we are hoping it will again be done by BCCI – we will take the tournament there. So it will be still run by BCCI.”
Recently, the BCCI proposed to the ICC nine venues across India to stage the T20 World Cup: Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Dharamsala, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Lucknow and Mumbai. Ahmedabad, which houses the world’s largest cricket stadium, was slotted in for the final.
The BCCI is using the two-venue caravan model in play during the 2021 IPL as a dry run to determine whether the same can be replicated for the World Cup, which will be the first multi-team global event staged by the ICC after the World Health Organisation declared Covid-19 as a pandemic in 2020. An ICC team including experts from the events, security and biosafety departments, was scheduled to arrive in India to inspect the venues and plans, but that plan had to be shelved with the UAE banning travel to India recently.
Malhotra pointed out that currently the BCCI was still going ahead with the original plan of India hosting the tournament. “As of now we are looking at ticket sales, people travelling from all over the world, but again we don’t know what the situation would be at that point of time.”
Speaking to Indian media agencies on April 7, two days before the start of the IPL, Geoff Allardice, the ICC’s interim chief executive officer, said that although there were back-up plans in place, the global body had not “activated those plans” and was “preparing to go ahead with the event in India as scheduled.”
Since then though, the situation in India has become grim by the day. As per Covid-19 data logged on Friday morning by the US-based John Hopkins University, India has reported over 18 million Covid-19 positive cases (second behind the USA) and is fast moving to become the third on the list of most deaths globally with the current count over 208,000.
Consequently, countries have banned flights to and from India as well as stiffening their quarantine protocols for travelers coming into the country. That move prompted four overseas players from two IPL franchises to return home while also leaving several more uneasy.
Bond – ‘Extra funding’ necessary to have T20 World Cup in India
One of those feeling uneasy is former New Zealand fast bowler Shane Bond, who is the bowling coach with defending champions Mumbai Indians. “That is the biggest stress for all of us who are over here is how to get home,” Bond said from Delhi on Friday during a virtual media briefing, organised by the Sydney Thunder, the BBL franchise where he was stepping down as head coach.
“There’s no doubt from my perspective, that’s the only thing that keeps you awake at night is thinking: am I going to be able to get in and what are the rulings of the government. But the other is, what you don’t want to be doing is, sitting around all day talking about that stuff because that just wears you down.”
Asked about the feasibility of India hosting the T20 World Cup, Bond said it would be “certainly challenging” compared to hosting the IPL. “There’s no doubt about that. The uniqueness of obviously having something that is privately owned (franchise) is we have our own hotel, we have net bowlers and all the little things that are helping you as a cricket team taken care of. I know when I have been to ICC tournaments the numbers are limited to 23, so if you are carrying only those sorts of numbers and there’s challenges getting in and out of the country then it is going to make it pretty tough.”
“The only way I can see the World Cup happening or making it easier to happen is just extra funding. It just comes down to the level of security in the bubble”
Mumbai Indians bowling coach Shane Bond
Recently the ICC agreed to increase the squad strength to 30 for the T20 World Cup and the women’s ODI World Cup (scheduled in New Zealand in 2022) to help teams use additional players and coaching staff as cover during the pandemic. Bond remained confident that the India could still host the T20 World Cup if the organisers put in some additional measures to create a secure bubble like the IPL model.
“The only way I can see that happening or making it easier to happen is just extra funding. It just comes down to the level of security in the bubble and the extra staff that you might be able to carry here. If you can do that there’s no doubt….in this completion (IPL) the bubble is pretty strong, our one (Mumbai) is outstanding.
“The other thing is in six months’ time things might look drastically different because of the vaccinations or lockdowns that are going on. I’m sure there will be contingencies put in place by the BCCI and the Indian government but there’s still a long way to go before the World Cup is held.”
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo
Recent Match Report – Essex vs Worcs Group 1 2021
Worcestershire 37 for 0 trail Essex 561 for 8 dec (Westley 113, Lawrence 90, Walter 65, Harmer 57*) by 524 runs
You have to be careful what you wish for. Not so long ago, many of us bemoaned these early-season contests as they tended to provide too much assistance for seam bowlers. How were batsmen to learn to play the long innings that define Test matches on surfaces where 200 is par, we asked. And how are young spinners to bowl the volume of overs to gain experience?
The prospect of too much assistance for seamers didn’t seem so bad here. Yes, Worcestershire’s spinner – a leg-spinner, at that – had the opportunity to bowl 46 overs. And yes, several Essex batsmen had the opportunity to build the sort of long innings that define Test cricket.
But in terms of entertainment? Well, for much of the first two days, this game has had all the competitive edge of seal clubbing. And, for a while on day two – as Essex extended their first innings beyond tea and registered their highest score for five years – it wouldn’t have come as a complete surprise if they had used the carcass of a Worcestershire bowler to make a pair of gloves.
None of this should be read as a criticism of either side. Essex were admirably ruthless in grinding out the score that gives them the best chance of victory in this game and, despite not claiming a single bowling bonus point (which means they hadn’t taken a third wicket by the time they had bowled 110 overs), Worcestershire were admirably resilient in making them fight for nearly every run. Only in the last couple of hours of their innings did Essex take the run-rate above three-an-over – a late acceleration took it to 3.22 – and Ed Barnard’s final figures- he conceded 59 from his 30 overs – are testament to the excellent professional that he has become. Worcestershire have now spent four of their most recent seven days of cricket in the field. Barnard will scarcely have bowled a poor delivery in that time.
And maybe the ends will justify the means for Essex. There were increasing signs that the ball was keeping low as the second-day progressed and Worcestershire could struggle against the spin of Simon Harmer, in particular. But just because a rock-fall can be dramatic, it doesn’t mean the 10,000 years of erosion that led to it is terrific entertainment. And the concern here is that such ‘entertainment’, in this day and age, is niche to the point of being an extremely tough sell.
Which leads us to the age-old question: what’s the purpose of county cricket? Because if it’s just to prepare players for Test cricket, you might just about justify this sort of surface. Certainly batsmen learn to graft for their runs and bowlers learn to persist. But if it’s to prepare players for Test cricket and provide entertainment, then they may have to think again. Pitches that lead to big scores don’t necessarily equate to good pitches and there is no incentive here for developing fast bowlers.
Again, there’s no criticism of the groundstaff intended, either. This pitch was under water two months ago. It is remarkable that the teams are playing here at all. But there might be a case for allowing hybrid pitches to be used in such circumstances. Such pitches, with plugs of plastic accounting for around five percent of the surface, promote deeper and stronger grass growth. They are quickly becoming common in limited-overs cricket and might ensure a little more pace and bounce. As a result, they might more closely replicate the conditions found in Test cricket. For while spinners might have been entrusted with lots of overs here, it wasn’t because the pitch was offering them assistance. Rather, it was because it has been harder to score when there has been no pace with which to work. This has been a surface to make fast bowlers wish they had become sewage workers.
Perhaps the extra points awarded for a draw this year are relevant, too. Certainly it feels as if those three extra points (increased from five to eight this season) have reduced sides’ inclination to take any risks. And while the intention behind that was worthy – to encourage teams to fight for draws and incentivise more attritional cricket – you wonder if the outcome is quite what was predicted. Right now, it feels as if the whole of county cricket is being run by Jose Mourinho; defend for days and try and catch the opposition on the break. It might help if these matches were scheduled later in the season when groundstaff have had a chance to inject some pace.
You wonder what Marcus Trescothick, England’s new elite batting coach, made of it as he watched on from the stands. Perhaps he will have concluded that Dan Lawrence, the only realistic contender here for a spot in the England squad ahead of the Test series against New Zealand, has the patience and determination to match his undoubted flair. Suffice to say, it was a shock when Lawrence fell 10 short of a century.
Or perhaps he will conclude that Tom Westley should be on England’s radar again. Certainly there were strokes in this innings that marked Westley out as a player with more options than most – at one stage he turned a good-length ball through fine leg for four from outside off stump, as if it was easy – and with a hunger to add to his elegance. Since the start of 2016, he averages 103.60 against Worcestershire in first-class cricket. He made 213 against them at Chelmsford earlier in the month and now has three centuries in his four most recent matches on this ground; two for Essex and one for England Lions. It was a surprise when he fell, top-edging an attempted slog-sweep off Jake Libby’s first delivery.
“It’s a very placid wicket,” Westley said afterwards. “Pretty dead. Taking 20 wickets will be a monumental effort.
“I felt scratchy when batting. It was infuriating. Slow going. But we are very happy. It’s not often you get 500 on the board.”
Later, as Simon Harmer, Paul Walter and Ryan ten Doeschate accelerated, Brett D’Oliveira was hit for three sixes in an over and the normally excellent Ben Cox missed another chance – his third of the innings, this one a stumping – when ten Doeschate advanced down the wicket. Worcestershire’s bowlers deserved better from both their fielders and their pitches.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
Recent Match Report – Middlesex vs Somerset Group 2 2021
Robbie White falls eight short of maiden first-class ton as game remains in balance
Somerset 178 for 4 trail Middlesex 357 (White 92, Davey 3-33) by 179 runs
James Hildreth became the fourth-highest first-class run-maker in Somerset’s history on the second day of the LV=County Championship match with Middlesex at the Cooper Associates County Ground. The 36-year-old batsman went past Bill Alley’s tally of 16,644 while contributing 39 to his side’s first innings total of 178 for 4 and now lies behind only Harold Gimblett, Marcus Trescothick and Peter Wight.
Earlier, Middlesex had moved from an overnight 308 for 6 to 357 all out, Robbie White falling for 92 and Josh Davey claiming three of the wickets in the space of an over.
There were two victims each for Steve Finn and Tim Murtagh when Somerset replied before an unbroken fifth-wicket stand of 80 between George Bartlett and first-class debutant Lewis Goldsworthy left honours pretty even.
The day began with White, unbeaten on 70, and Luke Hollman adding 24 before Craig Overton uprooted Hollman’s off stump with his score on 16. White had moved to 81 and the total to 338 for 7 off 108 overs when rain interrupted play at 11.50am. The action resumed at 1.20pm with two incident-packed overs.
White took two fours and a three off the first of them, bowled by Tom Abell to put his side within a single of a fourth batting point. But his hopes of a maiden first-class century were dashed when he edged Davey’s first ball of the following over to Hildreth at first slip.
The crestfallen White dragged himself off, having faced 224 deliveries and hit 13 fours. Two balls later Finn fell lbw, having survived an equally confident appeal first up, and Somerset had their third bowling point. With one run still needed for a fourth batting point, Murtagh swung two boundaries to third-man, before being caught there to give Davey a third wicket.
Somerset’s reply had reached 8 without loss when a lighter shower brought a 15-minute interruption. Then both openers fell quickly as Tom Lammonby edged a catch behind off Finn and Tom Banton was pinned lbw by Murtagh.
Hildreth looked in good touch as he and Abell took the score to 86 for 2 at tea, the latter surviving two slip chances in the same Tom Helm over, Max Holden and White the guilty fielders.
Hildreth had overtaken Darren Stevens as the leading run-maker among players still operating in the domestic game when fencing at the first delivery after tea from Murtagh and being caught behind. Abell then chipped a full ball from Finn to midwicket and departed for 41. With the floodlights on, Bartlett, on 13, was dropped by Sam Robson at second slip off Martin Andersson.
Drizzle and light issues brought a further break at 120 for 4. A 6pm resumption of 15 overs saw Bartlett progress serenely to 43 and 20-year-old Cornishman Goldsworthy move stylishly to 34, an innings rich with promise.
Recent Match Report – Hampshire vs Surrey Group 2 2021
Surrey pile on the runs as pitch transforms from minefield to road in space of an innings
Surrey 513 for 3 (Amla 215*, Pope 131, Burns 80, Smith 66*) lead Hampshire 92 by 421 runs
Most greats of the game empty bars rather than filling them, but Hashim Amla’s unflappable, effortless manner does not lend itself to edge-of-the-seat drama.
Amla’s triple-hundred at this ground against England in 2012 was record-breaking: no single day of cricket at The Oval has seen higher takings at the bar than the Saturday of that Test, when he batted through 98 overs to move from an overnight score of 47 to 183 not out. County Championship crowds tend not to be as thirsty, not least when forced to watch via a live stream, but the prospect of seeing him bat in the flesh later in the summer should bring a smile to the faces of Surrey’s members.
Amla’s greatest quality is his ability to dictate the pace of a day. He batted throughout this one, adding 156 to his overnight score, and played role of the becalmed senior partner in stands of 257 and 100 (unbroken) with Ollie Pope and Jamie Smith respectively; both men are at least 15 years his junior and when Amla made his first-class debut, Smith had not been born. He had managed only 78 runs in his first three games of the season, including a pair at Lord’s last week, but this innings was a throwback to his heyday, as he punched through cover, steered through third man and whipped through midwicket with a roll of the wrists.
Amla was thwarted by birds more regularly than by Hampshire bowlers: a back-foot punch through the covers was stopped by a flock of pigeons grazing in the deep, and he backed away moments before a Liam Dawson ball that pegged back his off stump as one flew across his line of vision, resulting in a dead ball. Scott Currie, the 19-year-old seamer, induced a couple of false shots and had him dropped at wide slip on 184, but he will resume unbeaten on Saturday morning, barring an overnight declaration.
The result is that Surrey are in an impregnable position after two days and should force a first win of the season against Group Two’s early leaders. Their only concern will be that this pitch has flattened out: Pope suggested that Amla “made it look better than it is” but Rory Burns had to drag himself off after bottom-edging a pull off Dawson onto his own stumps, realising he had missed the opportunity for a mammoth hundred. The heavy roller seems to have taken any spice out of the healthy grass covering, but a lead of 421 will allow Surrey to set attacking fields throughout Hampshire’s second innings.
Given the dip in his international returns over the last nine months, it is easy to lose sight of Pope’s freakish record in first-class cricket. At The Oval, he has scored 1373 runs in 17 innings at an average of 105.61. This was his fourth first-class innings against Hampshire at this ground and his second-lowest score, behind knocks of 145 in 2018 and 221 not out two years ago. Pope’s physical appearance can make him look like a boy playing in a man’s game, but his record is the other way round.
Pope was not quite at his best, playing three false shots against Ian Holland in the 90s and nicking through the gully on 78. He took an off-stump guard, and played his drives very late, occasionally finding himself in a rush and a tangle, as was the case in both of his dismissals against Middlesex last week. It did not stop him cashing in, but New Zealand and India’s analysts may be taking notes for Test series later this summer.
“I’ve been out a few times playing some pretty average cover drives this year, nicking off to them, and that’s how they were trying to get me off,” Pope said. “Abbas and Holland try and challenge your pads and nip it around a little bit. I was trying to help myself leave those fifth-stump balls and if they wanted to go straight and bowl at the stumps, that’s one of my strengths.”
The standout feature of Pope’s innings was his ability to rotate the strike. Amla is hardly the quickest man between the wickets, but Pope has a knack of finding gaps and weighting his shots to ensure that he can pick up ones and twos; he maintained a strike rate of 75.72, even though fewer than half of his runs came in boundaries. The biggest surprise of his innings came after tea, when he sliced Currie to wide gully; Hampshire’s third wicket inside 110 overs ensured that their visit to South London was not pointless in the literal sense, at least.
After a top score of 34 in eight innings in India, Pope has reverted to type this summer and is clearly benefitting from home comforts. “We’ve played a lot of cricket in bubbles and in tough conditions and it’s been nice just to get some consistent game-time with Surrey,” he said. “I feel like I’m getting back to my best and getting my batting back to where it should be. It’s about remembering what made you successful, and there are a few little technical adjustments as well; I want to get my movements right and hopefully go into that New Zealand series full of confidence.”
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98
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