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COVID-19: Australia seals border, cricket calendar in mess

Source: PTI
Last updated on: March 29, 2020 18:54 IST
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India's tour of Australia is to begin with a T20 tri-series in October that will also feature England

IMAGE: India's tour of Australia is to begin with a T20 tri-series in October that will also feature England. Photograph: BCCI

The Australian government's decision to seal its border for the next six months owing to the COVID-19 pandemic could adversely affect India's Futures Tours Programme (FTP), including the much-awaited face-offs Down Under, scheduled for later this year.

A six-month travel ban means no teams will be allowed to enter Australia for the assignments lined up in the coming times, which includes the World T20 and the tour by the Indian team.

India's tour of Australia is to begin with a T20 tri-series in October and end with a Test series in December. India are slated for a tour Down Under to play four Tests, three ODIs and three T20I matches.

 

In between is the World T20 Championship, scheduled for an October 18 start, but the mega-event's future is also shrouded in uncertainty due to the global health crisis.

In Australia, there has been over 2000 positive cases along with 16 reported deaths, prompting the government to seal the country's borders.

The Sourav Ganguly-led BCCI, in all likelihood, might have to explore alternate plans amid the pandemic that has so far claimed over 30000 lives across the world.

While the BCCI is yet to take a final decision on this edition of Indian Premier League, which has been postponed to April 15, the international calendar will be another cause of concern as the future of the tours of Sri Lanka (ODIs and T20s), Zimbabwe, the Asia Cup (T20) and a home a white ball series against England hang in the balance.

"Right now it's too early to say anything. It's a potential six-month travel ban. If the situation is under control, it could be lifted early also," a senior BCCI office-bearer, privy to the developments, told PTI on the condition of anonymity.

But those who have an idea of the FTP calendar admitted that the practical problem in such a situation could be the T20 tri-series, which starts in the beginning of October and involves Australia and England.

"If the international travel ban in reality exists for six months, then it becomes a logistical nightmare. At least, for the T20 tri-series before the World T20.

"The processing of visa, tickets, everything becomes a logistical challenge. Also, not only Australia, England is supposed to tour India in September for their white ball leg. Will things be normal in the UK and players allowed to travel? These are big questions," another BCCI source said.

If the World T20 is pushed back, then the four-Test series between India and Australia, which is part of the World Championship, could also get affected.

"The frustrating aspect is that you can't even decide anything as the situation varies from country to country. However helpless it might sound, we can only wait and watch," the source said.

The coronavirus outbreak, which has so far claimed more than 30,000 lives globally, has brought all cricket activities to a halt with Australia calling off their domestic Sheffield Shield, besides cancelling the three-match ODI series against New Zealand after the first game.

Australia's upcoming tour of Bangladesh in June and England in July are also in doubt, given the circumstances.

The PTI has sought a comment from Cricket Australia CEO Kevin Roberts and the story will be updated as and when a response is received.

Meanwhile, according to a report in 'Sydney Morning Herald', Cricket Australia had "planned to bring forward the announcement of contracts from May to April this year, in a bid to provide more certainty to the states given the flow-on effect."

"But that plan has been put on hold for now until the end of April, given the economic uncertainty due to the pandemic," the report said.

"The Australian Cricketers' Association agreed to the move."

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