Saving Australia: World T20 cancellation might see India extend tour

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Written by Devendra Pandey
| Mumbai |

Updated: April 29, 2020 12:00:56 am





India won the home ODI series against Australia in January. (Source: File Photo)

The cancellation of the T20 World Cup in Australia might result in India playing more ODIs and T20Is than previously scheduled during the year-ending tour Down Under. It’s a move that will help Cricket Australia (CA) cuts its losses as it struggles to deal with the COVID-19 economic slump.

With BCCI keen on a leadership role in cricket’s recovery once sports resumes, India’s itinerary will see a major rewrite, increasing the workload and travel of its cricketers. Besides adding new series to their over-booked Future Tours Programme (FTP), India will honour its old commitments and undertake tours that didn’t take place because of the ongoing lockdown.

A series against India is always lucrative for a host nation since it attracts millions of eyeballs, resulting in a multi-fold increase in broadcast rights and in-stadia advertisements revenue. While smaller nations like New Zealand, West Indies and Sri Lanka have historically banked on India tour to sustain themselves, the ongoing pandemic has put even the bigger cricketing countries like Australia under financial stress.

BCCI treasurer Arun Dhumal, giving details of the plan put forward by secretary Jay Shah at the recent chief executives’ meeting, said India will lend a helping hand to boards dealing with the economic uncertainty.

“Once things settle down, BCCI will chalk out a plan. There are a few suggestions, for example we are scheduled to play Zimbabwe in the coming days which might not happen. But we will try to play them once the situation improves. This will give a chance for Zimbabwe to earn money through their TV deals. We will also ask other boards whether they would want to play extra games. It could be Australia, Sri Lanka or any other nation. We will ask other boards and try to come up with a formula where everyone can make some money and be financially stable,” Dhumal told The Indian Express.

READ | BCCI in no hurry as Cricket Australia wants five-Test series

India has committed to play West Indies and Zimbabwe this monsoon, followed by a South Africa tour, the T20 World Cup, and then the tour to Australia.

Dhumal said the Indian board will work for the best interests of every board and a detailed dialogue will take place in the future whenever cricket resumes.

“There is a chance one has to relook at the FTP (Future Tours Programme) or have a rejig in scheduling. All things will get clear once the Coronavirus is gone and then only can we have detailed talks on how to find a solution in terms to helping other boards.”

The Indian team attracts broadcasters and every board wants to host them. Dhumal says India will have a big role to play once things are back to normal. Instead of arm-twisting which BCCI was accused of earlier, the new regime wants to be the ‘Big Brother’.

“We want to be like a big brother to them in these tough times. Our secretary Jay (Shah) put forward a proposal during the ICC meeting and everybody appreciated it. The situation won’t be the same again, for sure. Every board will suffer some way or the other. Nobody knows the exact numbers. As our secretary Jay said in the meeting, the BCCI wants to take everyone along. We understand cricket economics. BCCI will help other boards so that they can stand on their feet once things get better,” Dhumal explained.

On the effect of Covid-19 on the Indian board’s finances, he said: “BCCI is fine at the moment. Players’ interest is paramount to us. We have instructed to release money to our players, including domestic cricketers. Officials will be getting their dues in the coming days.”

READ | ‘Eager to see how Virat Kohli adapts to empty stadiums in Australia’

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India won its first-ever Test series in Australia in January 2019. (Source: Reuters)

Cancellation of the Test series against India in December-January could be catastrophic for Cricket Australia (CA) for two reasons. To start with, the four-Test series, which might have an additional game, is reportedly worth $300 million, all broadcast deals included. Also, as The Australian reported, CA has lost a significant part of its reserves on the equity market. The paper revealed that CA chief executive Kevin Roberts has warned people about money running out by the end of August.

CA’s 2018-19 annual report mentioned that the governing body of Australian cricket had a little over $90 in shares. Following the revenue loss, however, the financial crisis has become so acute that earlier this month, CA decided to stand down 80 per cent of its staff until July. As per the financial report, the organisation had $26.6 in cash reserves last year, down from $200 million in 2016.

CA is likely to announce pay cuts for its contracted players. There’s even a question mark over the Australian board meeting the organisational expenses of the 2020 ICC T20 World Cup if the tournament is played as per schedule, in October-November. Former ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed feels that Roberts has “stumbled through” the complicated financial issues, but he defended stock market investments. “Well, before it lost millions on the stock market it made millions of dollars on the stock market and its lost part of its profits, but it hasn’t lost anything yet because it hasn’t sold,” Speed told SEN Radio.

But the overwhelming belief is that for a non-profit organisation, the decision to invest in high-risk equity market didn’t augur well.

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