The race to rejig this year’s cricket schedule is under way as India attempts to find a slot to complete its Twenty20 money-spinner.
A week ago, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) suspended this year’s Indian Premier League (IPL) because of COVID-19 cases among players and support staff.
Australia’s IPL contingent is still largely cooling their heels in the Maldives, hoping to gain government clearance and return home on May 15, although Mike Hussey continues to isolate in India after contracting coronavirus.
BCCI president Sourav Ganguly has already conceded the end of this year’s IPL “can’t happen in India”, also dismissing England as a potential host nation.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) looms as the most likely option, having hosted last year’s rescheduled IPL season.
— CricketNDTV (@CricketNDTV) May 10, 2021
The BCCI, facing a financial loss of approximately $430 million if it fails to complete the T20 tournament, will leave no stone unturned.
The question of when shapes as more difficult than where.
The BCCI will want free space on the international calendar, ensuring Pat Cummins, Ben Stokes and other superstars from around the world can take part.
September has been mooted as a possible option for the IPL restart, especially if the Twenty20 World Cup also shifts to the UAE as appears to be on the cards.
Virat Kohli’s side is booked to be in England between June and September for Tests then, as it currently stands, before returning home for the T20 World Cup.
A schedule for this summer’s Ashes is expected to be announced soon, with the iconic Test series to follow the World Cup that is slated to run during October-November.
Australia is set to depart for a white-ball tour of the West Indies in June.
Justin Langer’s men were intending to visit Bangladesh for a T20 series that would serve as acclimatisation for the World Cup, but those warm-up fixtures are under a COVID-19 cloud.
IPL franchises may struggle to convince some cricketers to sign up for more biosecurity bubbles, while the BCCI will need to secure the blessings of national boards for player availability.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) had given several players permission to prioritise this year’s IPL ahead of the start of a Test series against New Zealand.
But ECB director of men’s cricket Ashley Giles has declared there will be no such flexibility later in the year should there be another clash.
The IPL normally falls during Australian players’ leave period, although they were memorably given approval to play last year’s rescheduled edition that clashed with the start of the Sheffield Shield.
This summer, it will be the T20 World Cup that overlaps with the Shield.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Super League (PSL) is also looking to finish its season in the UAE during coming months because of COVID-19.
Usman Khawaja headlines the list of Australians involved in the PSL.