With the 2021 men’s T20 World Cup inching ever closer, the ICC will use the fallout from the 2021 Pakistan Super League as a “learning” experience as it prepares to conduct a safe and secure tournament comprising 16 countries. The T20 World Cup, which was postponed last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, is scheduled to take place in India in October with the final on November 14.
On Thursday, the PCB was forced to postpone the 2021 PSL rather abruptly after a number of Covid-19 cases were reported among players and support staff. The tournament, which started on February 20, had been curtailed after just 14 league matches and just nine match days.
Even as the PCB navigates a way out of the crisis, Manu Sawhney, the ICC’s chief executive, said the PSL debacle would definitely be used as one of the examples before finalising the “protocols” for the bio-secure environment in which the T20 World Cup would be conducted. Sawhney spoke on the subject on Friday while participating in a virtual symposium – Global Sports Summit-Scorecard 2021, organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry. The topic was ‘Getting Sports Back on Track’.
“It is extremely important for everybody to realise that in the case of risk mitigation, it is not a linear curve,” Sawhney said, when asked about what the takeaways were for the ICC from the PSL episode. “For example, given a series which is a bilateral series, let’s say between two teams, versus let’s say a World Cup, which has 16 teams coming from 16 different countries into one country, the risks associated with that are exponentially larger and way different. And those are the complexities that all of us are right now are going through and understanding each day better than the day before as to what needs to be done.
“So, for us right now, learning from what is happening in the various [T20] leagues, learning from what India is doing currently – and BCCI has done a great job – and post this the IPL will be very key in terms of learnings before we look at what are the protocols we’ll have to follow for the T20 [World Cup] later in the year.”
Although India was confirmed to host the tournament, keeping in mind the shifting nature of the pandemic, the ICC has also enlisted the UAE as a back-up venue. India is second globally in terms of total number of active cases, however, its government approving more than one vaccine has injected a dose of confidence across the country. The ICC is monitoring the situation closely.
ESPNcricinfo understands that a successful hosting of the 2021 IPL would help the ICC understand and expedite plans for the T20 World Cup. The IPL has not yet announced dates or venues for the tournament due to several factors.
Venues have not yet been finalised for the T20 World Cup as well, although ICC teams have been conducting recces across India to ensure they comply with all the protocols necessary for a bio-secure environment.
Last November, BCCI secretary Jay Shah had said that the “health and safety” of all participants will be the priority and the Indian board will be constantly “innovating and adapting” to combat the challenges thrown due to the pandemic.
Sawhney today acknowledged it was an “enormous challenge”, but the ICC wanted to build the confidence of all stakeholders so everyone was on the same page. “But getting 16 teams from different countries with their quarantine protocols, with their risk factors….getting them into the country, then making sure the tournament happens and making sure that the players can then get back to their respective countries is an enormous challenge and a challenge where everybody needs to come together and everybody needs to realise that there is a high probability that things may not go as per plan. And to have the faith that everybody is trying to do his best to make things happen given the uncertainty which still exists.”
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo