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T20 World Cup Decision for 2020

The 2020 Men’s T20 World Cup looked set to be the pinnacle of a packed 2020 for international cricket, but should the tournament now be shelved?

After the women set the tone in Australia in February and March, with the hosts eventually beating India in front of a packed MCG to claim the title, the men’s T20 elite are set to follow in October.

Ireland, Papua New Guinea, the Netherlands, Namibia, Scotland and Oman were set to join the top ten teams in the ICC T20i Championship in Australia for the tournament.

But the women’s final on March 8 remains one of the last high-profile cricket matches to have been played this year, with the sport now on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Five days later, Australia’s men beat New Zealand in an ODI, while the final group game of the Pakistan Super League came two days later – both behind closed doors.

And then the global situation meant a total shutdown – and the prospect of play any time soon in some countries remains bleak.

So where does that leave the 2020 Men’s T20 World Cup in Australia? Can it still go ahead in Australia in October and November? And, more to the point, should it?

Behind closed doors

If spectator sport is still banned, but cricket has returned – as appears likely to be the case in several countries – the most obvious option is to run the tournament in the same way.

Indeed, England opener Jason Roy – set to be a key part of their team in Australia – admitted to Cricinfo he is just keen to play again, crowd or not.

There would still be the issue of whether teams could travel to Australia, and then any measures that would need to be taken to accommodate them.

But ultimately, with all games broadcast, it would be a popular choice with many cricket fans to see elite sport return again.

On the other hand, however, elite-level cricket is an odd spectacle without fans. The whole purpose of T20 was to bring in crowds, and the success of the women’s tournament highlighted the importance of that.

For the men to play in empty stadiums – as Roy had to at the end of the Pakistan Super League – would deplete the overall spectacle.

World Cups become the global spectacles they are because of the fanatic supporters and the atmosphere they generate.

Cricket at its purest level is only the players on the pitch and the battle between bat and ball, but a big crowd helps the ebb and flow of a major game.

India 2021

A further complication for the 2020 Men’s T20 World Cup is that it can not be shifted back 12 months like many global tournaments have been. UEFA Euro 2020 and the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games will both now take place in 2021, for example.

But the T20 World Cup in Australia can not, because October 2021 is scheduled to be the start of the next T20 World Cup in India.

A change to the overall international cricket calendar meant an extra T20 World Cup was slotted in next year, replacing the 2021 ICC Champions Trophy.

Not only is the main event just 12 months after this year’s tournament, but even shifting the current T20 World Cup six months would present some problems given qualification for India 2021 is due to start in March.

Now or never?

For the ICC then, the options are limited. It appears to be a case of 2020 or never. With five months until the tournament is due to start, will there be sufficient time to get players ready then?

In Roy’s interview with Cricinfo, he admitted that it would make more sense to scrap the tournament if players were not match fit.

In England, as the English look to add the T20 world crown to their World Cup triumph in the 50-over format last year, there will be no cricket of any sort until July.

The Indian Premier League is also currently suspended indefinitely – a tournament which would likely have proved a major form finder for the players set to feature in the World Cup.

It has been nearly two months and counting, at least, since most players played their last competitive game.

Sport may be far from some people’s minds at the moment, but a tough decision is incoming for cricket chiefs.

On the face it, scrapping the tournament and waiting until 2021 to see if West Indies can defend their T20 crown seems the most sensible option.

But if they can get the tournament on, in any format, the chance of watching cricket on TV for an audience starved of the sport they love, would be a hugely popular choice.