In one of the strangest of ways, bickering neighbours find themselves sharing a rather similar situation in the climate of the pandemic. While arguably one’s situation is one of desperation, it could be said that the other is also something of a compromise.
The International Cricket Council is in a quandary. The ICC Twenty20 World Cup is to be staged later this year in India and it is still hunting for an assurance from the Indian government that the participating Pakistan cricketers would be given visas. However, while that is another matter for another day, it would appear that as hosts, both, India and Pakistan, are having to make a few adjustments, warranted by the pandemic.
India are currently involved with England in a four-match Test series, euphoric from their return from their tour down under, having trounced the unsuspecting Australians by a 2-1 margin in the Border-Gavaskar trophy. Pakistan are buoyed from their win over South Africa in the Test series.
Jos Buttler highlighted the predicament of players and teams playing in the spate of the coronavirus pandemic.
Although the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) successfully hosted three teams in their summer through creating biosecure environments, the players and not just those from England have spoken of the perils of failing mental health in the face of long quarantine and seclusion from home and normal life as they know it. It has also made the decision on tours harder, knowing the length of time in confined and restricted space.
Alluding to England’s policy to possibly blooding in Jonny Bairstow for the last two Tests with Buttler himself returning home, while the wicketkeeper-batsman was speaking about the virus and the need for family time, there could be other issues for the teams including trying out teams for their best eleven which the virus might have made easier to be made an excuse of.
It is still early days to know what route and action Cricket South Africa might take to Cricket Australia’s decision to call off their tour. But Pakistan were in a similar boat as India’s, grateful to accept a touring team on their soil, even if it meant that the original plan prior to Australia’s cancellation was to have the likes of Quinton de Kock return home as part of the quarantine norms and preparation for Australia.
Given how little of international cricket action Pakistan has seen on its own soil in the last decade, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) would have been reluctant to impose upon CSA to ensure that a full-strength squad remain present at any time, across all formats of the game. CSA intends to stick to its game plan.
Although India are not quite in a desperate place Pakistan are in or even as the ECB was before creating the biosecure bubbles for the visiting teams last June, for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), it would have been hard to nitpick on the small group of cricket boards it has formed an informal oligarchy with.
Besides, unless England were really at half strength, India or even the broadcasters might not have taken a serious objection to the scenario.
For the BCCI, while the England tour is important from India’s international standings, to cash in while India is the most desired team around the cricket world to play with for obvious reasons, England will also serve as a testing ground for the even more financially rewarding Indian Premier League.
In many ways, the test of India’s appetite in the wake of the pandemic breaks and the eagerness of fans and advertisers will provide the BCCI the laboratory to test how optimally to host the IPL to the most profitable scenario.