English grounds consider role as IPL stand-in

Saturday, 8 May 2021 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

LONDON (AFP): Several Test grounds in England are ready to act as stand-in hosts for the concluding matches of this year's coronavirus-hit Indian Premier League, according to media reports published Thursday. The ESPNCricInfo website said MCC and Surrey, in charge of London's Lord's and the Oval respectively, together with Warwickshire, based at Birmingham's Edgbaston, were among clubs who had asked the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to tell the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) that they were prepared to stage IPL matches.

Any such fixtures would probably take place in September, towards the end of the 2021 English cricket season.

The IPL, the world's richest Twenty20 cricket tournament, was suspended on Tuesday following a surge in Covid-19 cases in India, where there have been more than 20 million infections from the virus so far, with just over 222,000 deaths.

That decision came a day after two players – Varun Chakravarthy and Sandeep Warrier – tested positive, forcing a match to be postponed.

Australian cricketers fled India for the Maldives Thursday, but New Zealand's top stars are stuck in Delhi until May 11, the earliest they can secure exemptions to enter England where they are due to play a Test series. There are 31 scheduled IPL fixtures still to be played and staging any of them in England would require both BCCI and ECB approval.

Such a move still appears to be a long way off, with an ECB spokesperson telling Britain's Press Association: “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.” Last year's IPL was played behind closed doors in the United Arab Emirates on health grounds.

Resuming the IPL in England, after the conclusion of India's tour, and at a time when fans are expected to be back at British sports grounds in significant numbers, may be an attractive proposition.

Returning to the UAE might not be an option if it becomes the substitute venue for the T20 World Cup in October, should India no longer be able to stage that event, as grounds there may not be able to cope with such a volume of cricket.

Travel restrictions, however, could make it difficult for IPL support staff to enter the UK even if many leading India players will already be in England because of their tour commitments.