English cricket’s relationship with India faces a potential fork in the road following an informal request to move the fifth Test in September to the start of the series – or even cancel it altogether – in order to complete the Indian Premier League.
The IPL was suspended on 4 May amid an outbreak of Covid-19 among the franchises. But with the 31 IPL matches still to be played worth an estimated £200m in broadcast money to the Board of Control for Cricket in India, the motivation to complete the 2021 season is obvious.
The T20 World Cup starting in mid-October means any restarted IPL campaign – most likely held in the United Arab Emirates – would have to come first. But India’s five-Test series in England does not finish until 14 September in Manchester, which would disrupt such a plan.
While the England and Wales Cricket Board insist no “official” request has been made, one scenario understood to have been floated amid talks with the BCCI is to move the fifth Test forward to the end of July, before the current first Test at Trent Bridge starting on 4 August.
England do have a two-week gap after the third T20 against Pakistan on 20 July. However, dropping a Test match into this window would have huge knock-on effects – not least in terms of angering supporters, with the first three days of the Old Trafford Test sold out following a year without crowds.
As well as affecting broadcast schedules, it would prevent England players from featuring at the start of the Hundred from 21 July and trample over the launch of the new competition more broadly. Manchester Originals also have two double-headers at Old Trafford during the same period.
An alternative suggestion is to simply cut the series to four Tests. But with each fixture worth £20m in home broadcast revenue alone before factoring in overseas rights, the ECB would need considerable compensation and face an even greater backlash from supporters.
As such, the ECB will be expected to hold its ground, with one senior official telling the Guardian that the current schedule is “long agreed, complex and commercially contracted”. That said, the governing body has long hoped to get India’s superstar male cricketers in the Hundred and could use the situation as potential leverage.
Were the IPL to press ahead in September regardless, England’s players would be absent, with Ashley Giles, the director of cricket, already stating that the tour of Bangladesh that departs later in the month must take priority before the T20 World Cup.
The Insidexpress is now on Telegram and Google News. Join us on Telegram and Google News, and stay updated.