Victoria's sports minister has cast further doubt on the men's Twenty20 World Cup being staged as planned this year, as Australian cricket officials explore potential scenarios should India not be able to play next summer.
Though Cricket Australia was able to stage almost its whole international schedule before the pandemic struck, there is uncertainty over the 2020-21 season.
Victoria’s sports minister has cast doubt on fans being able attend matches in the Twenty20 World Cup.Credit:AAP
Officials are tight-lipped regarding details of their scenario planning in respect for their staff but an industry source has said at least one state is broadly planning for a disrupted season, a normal season and no season at all.
There is speculation New Zealand could feature next summer if the Virat Kohli-led India cannot travel to Australia for what would in other times be a highly anticipated series between two of the game's most powerful teams.
New Zealand, like Australia, has done better than most nations in limiting the spread of coronavirus.
Six months before Sri Lanka and Ireland are to kick off the World Cup in Geelong, Victoria's Sports Minister Martin Pakula has said he cannot envisage fans being able to attend games due to social distancing measures to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Tournament organisers, who are aware of Pakula's comments, have been in contact with Australian government officials through the crisis and remain hopeful the tournament can be staged in open stadiums.
Whether an event can be held at all is out of the control of the International Cricket Council as exemptions would be needed to enable the 15 foreign teams into Australia if existing travel restrictions remain in place in October.
If a tournament is played, Pakula is not confident the fans will be allowed in.
"I think there will be great reluctance, particularly from the chief medical officer at Commonwealth level but through all the chief health officers to have huge public gatherings in advance of a vaccine," Pakula said on SEN radio.
"The only exception to that would be if the virus had been completely eradicated within Australia and that's a very, very difficult ask.
"I think that will be an issue and the other issue is there's no guarantee any form of international travel will be back up and running by October."
As part of contingency planning, organisers are exploring the idea of testing players and quarantining them in their home countries before flying them here for the 16-nation tournament, as reported in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age last week.
"I'm sure the ICC and CA will be having all kinds of conversations with Commonwealth authorities and indeed with state authorities but if the question is right now as we sit in April 'is it a difficult proposition', yes, I think it probably is," Pakula said.
"That doesn't mean it's out of the question but it's certainly no guarantees about it."
Australian star Glenn Maxwell last week said he could not see the World Cup going ahead if fans were locked out.
There would be serious ramifications for smaller cricket nations if the event was cancelled as they are reliant on revenue from the world's governing body, much of which comes from TV rights from ICC events.
The game was dealt another blow on Wednesday with the Indian board suspending this year's Indian Premier League indefinitely. The IPL's chief operating officer Hemang Amin has informed franchises of the decision, which comes after the Indian government extended the nation's lockdown to May 3.
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