T20 World Cup at ‘high risk’ of being postponed

Updated May 30 2020

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Australia is scheduled to host the tournament in October and November. — AFP/File
Australia is scheduled to host the tournament in October and November. — AFP/File

MELBOURNE: Cricket Australia (CA) is bracing for the very high risk of the men’s Twenty20 World Cup being postponed and the resulting financial hit during the coronavirus pandemic.

Australia is scheduled to host the tournament in October and November but with global travel restrictions in place it’s very doubtful the event will go ahead. And if it does, its unlikely crowds will be allowed in stadiums because of social distancing requirements.

“We have been hopeful all along that it could be staged in October-November but you would have to say there’s a very high risk about the prospect of that happening,” Cricket Australia chief executive Kevin Roberts said on Friday.

Roberts is more confident about the lucrative four-Test series against India going ahead, starting at the Gabba in Brisbane on Dec 3. “But while that would deliver much needed broadcast revenue, it would also come at a cost of millions for extra biosecurity measures that we need to put in place to deliver the season.”

CA released a draft schedule for the southern summer that involves back-to-back T20 Inter­national series against the West Indies and India in October, a Test match against Afghanistan at Perth from Nov 21, and the Tests against India in Brisbane, Adelaide (Dec 11-15), Melbourne (Dec 26-30) and Sydney (Jan 3-7).

The Australians regained top spot from India in the last International Cricket Council rankings released before sport was shuttered globally in the pandemic.

India are scheduled to stay for a three-game One-day International series on Jan 12, 15 and 17 before the Australians take on New Zealand in three one-day games and a T20 from Jan 26 to Feb 2.

The schedule depends on state borders being open and the provision for visiting foreign teams to fulfill whatever isolation or quarantine requirements are in place at the time.

“It may be that circumstances dictate that when the time comes maybe we can only use one or two venues, we really don’t know any of that yet,” Roberts said. “There are endless scenarios and possibilities [but] were very optimistic that we will be able to stage the Indian tour and the other inbound tours for the season.

CA FACES FURTHER COST CUTTING

Meanwhile, Australian cricket faces another round of cost-cutting to shore up finances hit by the coronavirus shutdown and no part of the game will be immune, Roberts warned.

CA has already furloughed about 80 percent of its workforce, while state associations have also made deep staff cuts in recent weeks.

CA’s financial outlook has improved with India’s tour, worth an estimated A$300 million ($200 million) in revenue to CA, set to go ahead in the home summer.

But Roberts said the board was still facing an A$80 million shortfall due to Covid-19.

“So were focused on delivering the best season as possible noting that the likelihood of significant crowds is very slim,” he said. “Ordinarily that would deliver well over A$50 million in revenue to Cricket Australia.

“There is no doubt the T20 World Cup is a big question and that’s a factor of perhaps A$20 million and ... it’s likely that our bio-security measures we need to put in place to deliver the season will cost in the order of A$10 million.”

Most CA staff remains furloughed on 20 percent pay until the end of June, while the board’s executive team has taken a 20 percent pay-cut.

Roberts’ leadership amid the pandemic has been slammed by former players and media pundits, who have accused him of exaggerating the game’s financial problems.

However, Roberts said further cuts were necessary to maintain investment in community cricket as much as possible.

“We’ve made a commitment to significantly reduce the cost base of Cricket Australia, unfortunately that means no area of the organisation will be untouched,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that there will be an impact on our people.”

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2020