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T20 World Cup could be postponed for a year due to Covid-19 pandemic: Mani

T20 World Cup could be postponed for a year due to Covid-19 pandemic: Mani

KARACHI: The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman, Ehsan Mani expressed grave doubts on Wednesday that this year’s ICC T20 World Cup will be postponed for a year at least because of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Talking to a selected group of reporters via video link, the PCB chief remarked the uncertain situation across the globe has derailed the day-to-day life and termed staging of the global competition as a huge risk from health’s point of view.

“The biggest challenge that the Australian government is facing these days are the restrictions it has put in place on travel. They are extremely cautious in dealing with the prevailing circumstances because of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. It would be a massive risk and if God forbid, any of the players contracts Covid-19, that would lead to great panic everywhere,” Mani said.

“And although there have been much less casualties as compared to rest of the world, it would be very, very demanding to host teams competing in the T20 World Cup. Logistically speaking, I fear that a postponement is imminent at this point in time because it’s not a small matter of couple of countries but as many as 15 of them, apart from the host nation [Australia] will be participating. Travelling will be the biggest concern and there’ll be other related issues as well. That’s I think it is almost impossible for the event to be played this year on schedule.

“I’m saying through my regular contacts with the ICC because I’m chairman of the finance committee there. The ICC, therefore, will look for a window next year to hold the competition because I don’t think it will be feasible that we will see any ICC tournament taking place in 2020, and will probably be deferred for at least a year,” the 75-year-old cricket administrator, who is a charted accountant by profession, went on.

“The ICC have lined up another World Twenty [for men] in 2021 and the 50-over World Cup in 2023. Both those events are slated to be hosted by India. But if the coming T20 World T20 is put off then new plans have to be drawn up by the ICC unless the current situation changes dramatically and the tournament goes ahead this year itself in bio-secure conditions [no fans allowed at the matches and social distancing rules for the players] It’s a dicey situation because the stakeholders have to e taken on board before reaching a final verdict whether to go ahead [with the tournament].

The PCB chairman clarified that Pakistan are going to play in England without any pre-conditions with the ECB (England & Wales Cricket Board) to ensure the England visit here on reciprocal basis. “I’ll make it clear once and for all we in the PCB have not set any pre-conditions whatever in agreeing to play in England. On the contrary we are helping the ECB in restarting international cricket after this very long break because of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Mani stressed.

“The media can say and write whatever they want but from our perspective PCB is not forcing the ECB to send their team to Pakistan as conditions for this summer’s series. These are critical times at every sphere of life and we are just helping ECB in resumption of top international cricket. The West Indies are already there and we’ll also do the same in a bio-secure atmosphere necessitated by global spreading of Covid-19. England are due to tour Pakistan in 2021-22 as per the ICC Future Tours Programme and as far we understand that series is on.”

Mani dispelled the impression that he would be interested in becoming the chairman of International Cricket Council (ICC) for a second time — after having served the global body for a three-year term from 2003 to 2006.

“This is just speculation on part of the media and frankly speaking, I have no such desire to take over [as the ICC chairman] once again, although I’m currently on a committee in the ICC. I was away from cricket for a good period until Prime Minister Imran Khan [patron of the cricket board] nominated me [in August 2018] for the position of PCB chairman,” he clarified. “Therefore, it is obviously not my agenda to become chief of the ICC at this point in time.”

Mani further said he met the Prime Minister in a routine meeting to discuss matters pertaining to the game. “These meetings are generally held off-the-record on one-to-one contact. The only thing I can share with you that we discussed domestic cricket because the associations are not yet registered under the present [PCB] setup totally because of bureaucratic hassles and we are facing problems in moving forward to make the sport more viable [for all stakeholders] at the domestic level.

“But at the same time I’ll repeat that although departments have played a very important role in Pakistan cricket for a lengthy period of time, this is not a sustainable model because it isn’t the case elsewhere [in the cricketing world] and department cricket was not producing players from the grassroots level. People, perhaps are not in favour of changes and all they want is status quo.

“Our system has got to be professionalise like Australia where only six states compete and yet they keep on producing world-class players purely through their domestic cricket. Until we do that, Pakistan will perform inconsistently at the international level. Just go through the past many years and you’ll our team doing well on and off without playing consistently good cricket. The reason is simple: lack of strong backup for the retiring players.”

Mani also reiterated the law to punish match and spot fixers is being framed in shape of a bill through the federal parliament.

“Moreover, we are still in the process of framing final draft to be enacted as a law to act against issues related to match and spot fixing. Once the legislation on this very vital issue is finalised the matter will be whetted through the law ministry before being legalised like it is in the United Kingdom and Sri Lanka. This way fixing will become criminalise and culprits caught and proved will be sent to jail just like [Mohammad] Amir and company were jailed for the 2010 spot-fixing.”

Meanwhile, Mani conceded that it will be difficult to stage the remaining three matches — both semi-finals and the final — of Pakistan Super League (PSL) because of the uncertainties and logistics issues after the fifth edition was abruptly postponed by the Covid-19 outbreak last March.

“One cannot say for sure whether we will be able to complete the tournament. Finding slot in the schedule is one thing but there will be logistics problems like travelling of foreign players of the remaining teams and the broadcasting crew members,” he said. “We have a busy season in 2020-21 coming with Pakistan due to play several bilateral series and one can’t say with conviction whether those PSL fixtures could be slotted in somewhere.”

Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2020

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