MCC, Surrey, Warwickshire and Lancashire part of group; existing schedules remain a challenge
A group of English counties has offered to host the remainder of the IPL 2021 season in September this year.
The MCC, Surrey and Warwickshire, who are based at Lord’s, The Kia Oval (both London) and Edgbaston (Birmingham), respectively are understood to be part of the group who wrote to the ECB inviting them to extend the opportunity to the BCCI. The plans would see the tournament completed in around two weeks in the second half of September.
It is further understood that Lancashire’s home of Emirates Old Trafford (in Manchester) could be utilised for the tournament if the offer was accepted, though Lancashire have clarified that, although there were aware of the letter, they were not signatories. The subject is likely to come up at a virtual ICC meeting of the national chief executives scheduled for today.
Apart from simply completing the tournament, the counties point out that it would help top players to high-quality cricket heading into the T20 World Cup and ensure that pitches in the UAE – where the T20 World Cup could be played if it is moved from India – are fresh ahead of the global tournament. It might also broaden the UK market for the IPL.
However, from the ECB’s perspective, a spokesperson said: “We speak to the BCCI regularly about tours and other matters and we’ll continue doing so, but we have received no indication that they are looking for alternative hosts for the IPL at the moment.”
In its meeting on Tuesday – the day the IPL was postponed after an outbreak of Covid-19 cases across four franchises – the BCCI had not discussed the England option and it isn’t clear whether it has been considered since.
The counties hope the games could be played in front of full-house crowds – though this is also a possibility if the IPL takes place in the UAE – with two (or possibly even three) games being played on each day. There would also be no gap between the group stage and knock-out games.
There are, however, numerous obstacles to the plan. For one thing, it is hard to predict the course of the pandemic, and there is still some time before any decision is made on the T20 World Cup being held in India. There would also be numerous quarantine issues in bringing players from around the world into the UK, although a number of Indian players being in the UK at the time for their Test series with England could be helpful.
The other more challenging obstacle is the existing schedule. The England-India Test series only ends in Manchester on September 14, with England then likely to tour both Bangladesh and Pakistan for white-ball matches within the following month – they are due to play the second T20I in Pakistan on October 14. Most other sides have international commitments around the same time, with potential quarantine time to be factored in – though those final weeks in September remain less busy than most.
The counties hope, however, that with some flexibility a window can be found to accommodate the tournament in England.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo