The Covid-19 pandemic continues to damage the cricket calendar with the 2021 Women’s World Cup now pushed back to 2022 and the five-Test series for England’s men in India next January now expected to shrink in length.
The International Cricket Council announced on Friday that the 50-over women’s tournament, due to be hosted by New Zealand in February, faces a 12-month delay despite hopes of it taking place as planned being raised by the organisers advertising for a “biosecurity manager” last week.
Only five teams are confirmed to compete in the competition – New Zealand, Australia, England, India and South Africa – with three more spots needing to be decided by a qualifying tournament that was due to take place in Sri Lanka last month, only for the pandemic to force its postponement.
The need to get the qualifier played next year, and give all eight teams sufficient cricket in the lead-up to the main event, has been cited as the reason for the 12-month delay, along with “the health and safety of everyone involved”. But the decision raises questions about the ICC’s priorities, given a men’s event in India will now come first, despite two million Covid‑19 cases in the country to date, yet New Zealand (which has had 1,569 cases) and the women must wait their turn.
It also means 2022 will become a year of three global competitions for the women’s game, with a T20 World Cup also due to take place as well as a short-form tournament during the summer’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
The global governing body has also stated that the men’s T20 World Cup in 2021 will take place in India, as planned, with Australia, originally due to stage this year’s edition, now hit with a 24-month delay and hosting in 2022.
It is a blow for Cricket Australia and one that may lead to redundancies among the organising committee that had been working towards the original start date this October. With the Indian Premier League having moved into the vacated slot, but being played in the United Arab Emirates, eyebrows have been raised here, too.
The IPL’s move has also put paid to the notion of England’s white-ball team touring India before Christmas, with the England and Wales Cricket Board confirming on Friday that this will now take place following the Test series in the new year.
As things stand England are due to play five Tests against India but the additional white-ball games – originally due to be three ODIs and three Twenty20s – are expected to see this come down to four or possibly just three Tests, with the UAE a mooted host.
It leaves England’s men with just a brief white-ball tour of South Africa in December before Christmas. The Test team are then expected to play a two-match series in Sri Lanka in January – the tour that was called off in March this year – before bouncing on to face India.