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International cricket's return after Covid-19 outbreak: Countries all discussing resumption

South Africa v England - First ODI - Newlands Cricket Ground, Cape Town, South Africa - February 4, 2020

There have been encouraging signs of international cricket's return from each of England, West Indies, Pakistan, India, South Africa, Australia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Even an IPL in September-November is very much a possibility.


There's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip. Discussions for several international tours are ongoing; some in their initial stages, some a bit ahead of that. But there remain various challenges to be overcome before the talks turn into reality.


However, the fact that the world is now in a position to at least initiate discussions about the awaited return of international cricket in the wake of the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic is encouraging.


What looks likely is that the West Indies tour of England would be the one to get the ball rolling despite the UK being one of the hotspots of the novel coronavirus.


Now, a lot rests on this series. If everything can go ahead without any major hitch, it will kick start the trend with one cricket board following another in reaping the dividends of the return of international cricket post a period of lull. If anything happens otherwise, it will set back all of the other pursuits by a couple of months.


At the moment, the tentative date for the beginning of that 3-match Test series between England and West Indies is July 8. England bowlers have already started training and the batters are expected to follow suit from June 1.


Pakistan have also expressed their willingness for a 3 Test and 3 T20I series against England should safety of the players be ensured. The Pakistan Cricket Board has already laid down a rough draft of how things are expected to pan out.


"We will have an extended squad," said PCB chief Wasim Khan. "We are looking at bringing about 25 players. We are planning to get them together to train for the tour. We're probably about a week away from that. The ECB have said they are going to come back to us on that once they have gained clarity on what we can do during that time. We are trying to get to England early July so that we can get the quarantine done. If we can practice during that time then great, if not then it gives us just under three weeks to practice."


Then there are the 3 ODIs and 3 T20 internationals between India and Sri Lanka. Although the BCCI does not look too excited for the tour, it has not been cancelled as yet and with Sri Lankan board's readiness to push the series scheduled in June by a month or so, that might very well be the first international series of the Indian cricket team upon return.


What is encouraging is that Sri Lanka is one of the least affected countries due to the novel coronavirus with only around 500 active cases. If the Sri Lankan government, the Sri Lankan cricket board and the BCCI can strike an agreement and everybody is accommodating enough, you never know.


In the case that the Sri Lanka trip is too early for India to resume international cricket, the 3-match T20 series against South Africa is likely to mark their return to international cricket. The series was initially not part of the FTP but was discussed between the new CSA director Graeme Smith and BCCI President Sourav Ganguly. The two heads agreed for the series in August via teleconferencing, but things are still in the nascent stage.


Then there is the planned series between West Indies and South Africa. It's only obvious that both boards would want to go ahead with it. With West Indies due to be in England until July 29 and South Africa planning the series against India, this series is likely to be held in September.


Another expected international fixture is the Bangladesh tour of Sri Lanka. Even Australia, who were supposed to tour the UK for a T20I against Scotland and three ODIs and three T20Is against England beginning early July, are not denying the prospects of a delayed tour.


Apart from international cricket, there's the CPL and IPL. There is no news of the Caribbean Premier League being postponed as yet and possibility of it beginning on its schedule date of August 19 cannot be ruled out.


If reports are to be believed, it is quite possible for the T20 World Cup to be postponed to early 2021 so that Cricket Australia does not lose out on the ticket receipts for the showpiece event. In that case, the BCCI is all geared up to take that window for a truncated IPL.


As of now, the tentative dates floating in the media for the IPL are from September 25 to November 1 and the preparations are likely to begin by mid-August.


“When flights resume, everyone has to quarantine themselves before playing. We will have to look at how that will impact the schedules, which as it is are tight. Imagine you have to factor in 14-day quarantine prior to practice also. So, there are a lot of moving parts. But we are still optimistic. Hopefully, the situation will improve after monsoon, and we will approach it then,” BCCI CEO Rahul Johri said after the Indian government lifted restrictions from playing behind closed doors.


So, as you must have realised by now, hopefully the worst is past us. All we need to do as cricket lovers is to sit tight and hope for the best. In the best case scenario, England and West Indies will lock horns in the first of three Tests on July 8 and cricket won't have to look back from there onwards.


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