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Gulf emerges as Plan B for T20 World Cup

Chennai: Even though the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) wants to keep the T20 World Cup scheduled for October-November at home, the United Arab Emirates has been finalised as the back-up venue over Sri Lanka. With India witnessing a strong second wave across the country with over 3 lakh cases reported over the past week and travel restrictions in place, the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) recce team has already postponed its arrival in India to inspect the bio-bubble facilities in place for the IPL.

As reported by this newspaper on April 21, the ICC has been monitoring the Covid-19 situation in India, particularly after a couple of participating nations raised concerns about travelling to the World Cup. Although the 16-team event in six months away, India is currently on the travel red-list of England and Australia. With experts predicting that the current situation will worsen, whether these countries allow their teams to travel to India remains a big question.

The BCCI, over the past week, has been optimistic that they would be able to keep the World Cup at home. However, the delay in the vaccination programme could have an effect on the tournament too and a final call on the host is expected to be taken by the ICC at its annual meeting in June. “We will be doing normal scenario, Covid scenario and worst-case scenario, so with all that we’re talking to the ICC at the moment,” BCCI’s general manager (game development) Dhiraj Malhotra told the BBC’s Stumped podcast.

As far as the back-up plan goes, Malhotra said: “It would be the UAE. We’re hoping again that it would be done by the BCCI. So, we’ll take the tournament there, but it’ll still be done by the BCCI. As of now, we are targetting and looking at ticket sales and people travelling from all over the world. But again, we don’t know what the situation will be at that point in time.”

It is understood that the BCCI will request the ICC for more time to arrive at the final decision, at least till August. After shortlisting nine venues to host the T20 World Cup, the BCCI is now looking to restrict it to four-five venues if it helps them to keep the event at home. However, there is also acknowledgment in the board circles that the decision is beyond them as not all 15 teams might get clearance to travel to India, which is the second-most Covid-19 infected country in the world since the pandemic began.