Will the postponement of the IPL have an impact on the 2021 men's T20 World Cup, scheduled in India later this year?
It is clearly too early to say as the fallout from the postponement of the IPL is yet to settle, after the number of cases inside the bubble began to rise over the last few days. But ESPNcricinfo understands that while the ICC continues to monitor the situation in India, the UAE, which has been slotted in as a back-up venue, is now becoming a more realistic contender to host the global tournament.
As it stands, the T20 World Cup, comprising 16 countries, is scheduled to be played in India between late October with the final on November 14.
The BCCI recently shortlisted nine venues in India, which were proposed to the ICC, the host for global tournaments. An ICC team of experts from the biosafety, events and security wings was scheduled to visit India from April 26 to do an inspection of the venues but was forced to shelve that plan due to the travel ban imposed by the UAE to and from India.
This week India crossed the 20-million mark for positive Covid-19 infections, and has been brought to a standstill by a raging second wave. The numbers were significantly high even in March, when the BCCI announced the IPL schedule comprising of six venues.
Unlike in the past where all eight teams played on a home and away basis, this season the BCCI decided the IPL would be played on a caravan model, with two venues in operation at a time and the tournament itself split into four legs. The BCCI was utilizing the IPL as a dry run for the T20 World Cup.
However, concerns among overseas players and teams as well as their countries are bound to rise in the wake of the IPL bubble being breached. Several countries had banned travelers, including their own citizens, if they were traveling from India, in addition to imposing stiff quarantine norms.
Such measures left the overseas contingent in the IPL uneasy. Two players each from Royals Challengers Bangalore and Rajasthan Royals immediately left the IPL bubble to return home and left many more anxious.
The ICC is keen to avoid such a scenario. On March 5, two days before the IPL announced its schedule, Manu Sawhney, the then ICC CEO, had pointed out that the risks associated with organising a 16-team World Cup were "exponentially larger" compared to T20 franchise leagues like the IPL or bilateral cricket.
On Tuesday, a senior BCCI official said the T20 World Cup was "too far away" to make a call about whether it will have to move. The status of the pandemic in the country will be the key factor, but the question is how long can the ICC now wait? Normally, the ICC finalises venues at least a year in advance. The other key question for the ICC to determine is whether it can allow crowds into the tournament. The BCCI has said that even if the tournament is moved to the UAE, it will want to run the event, which would mean in case the crowds are allowed, the ticketing revenues will go to the Indian board.
From May 1, the Indian government opened vaccination for all adults over 18 years of age. However, currently, India is facing a vaccine shortage with reports stating several states will not be able to procure enough vaccines until June or July. The BCCI did consider vaccinating players at the IPL but were wary of the optics of such a move.
While the next formal meeting of the ICC Board is not until its annual conference in July, it is likely the global body will ask members to meet before that to get a sense of how they are feeling and discuss options.