The COVID-19 cases are rapidly increasing in India. It is currently facing a second wave of COVID-19. While a few places in India have declared a complete lockdown, a few places are on the verge of declaring one. Amidst all this chaos, India would be hosting the T20 World Cup. The T20 World Cup is slated to take place in September and October this year. A lot of questions regarding this ICC event still remained unanswered. Will the 2021 T20 World Cup take place as per scheduled? Will the bio-bubble be secure enough to ensure that there wouldn’t be any cases during the event? What are the risks of having 16 teams travel across the multiple venues proposed by the BCCI? What impact will vaccinations have? Dr Dave Musker, the in charge of the ICC team looking after biosafety and biosecurity has tried to answer these questions and various others as well.
On being asked about challenges in organizing a global tournament versus organizing a bilateral series he said “The way I look at that is how many links you’ve got in the chain. If you have two teams, you’ve only got two links in the chain in one [biosafe] environment. If you have, for example, eight teams in the IPL – which is not our tournament but we have taken learnings from – you have got a significant additional complexity. So every additional link, every team, every different venue, you are adding a new complexity. None of this is straightforward, but tournament cricket, or franchise leagues, are much more tricky than bilateral series.” He also felt that most most of the bio-secure bubbles are similar in nature. “Most of the biosecure bubbles look pretty similar. You wrap people around, you clean them on arrival, you test regularly, and you make sure they don’t put themselves in a position where they could be infected”. Musker was fascinated by the IPL and he said that he’ll be visiting India to see the current situation. “I’m fascinated to see how the IPL works in India over the coming weeks. We will be travelling to India on April 26 to see the arrangements there and are in touch with the BCCI on this. It is on top of our list of priorities. Some of our teams have already travelled to Delhi in the past and gathered significant learnings from there.”
“So I don’t think we’ll be in position to really tie down what we are going to do in the autumn until we see how the IPL goes. There is a robust plan, which I’ve looked at. I’m looking forward to the way that that is put in place. But it will be foolish to make those prognostications now rather than waiting to see what happens in India in April and May”. He said. He also spoke about a few possibilities on conducting the World Cup in a few selected venues and conducted it in multiple cities. “Could be, might not be. The way the IPL is managed, they only have two venues engaged at one time. You haven’t got eight venues at one time. One of the reasons for going to India is to take the cricket across a cricket-loving country so everybody can see their heroes live. There is a tension between doing that and staging the event in a way that is as secure as possible for everybody, that’s why we haven’t published or really got into the detail of the staging venues. If the IPL works with this two-venue caravan model, then it is clearly a good starting point for us to understand how we may stage the men’s T20 World Cup.” He said. Addressing one of the most important issues, he spoke about the possibility of an individual in the bubble getting tested positive. “You strive not to have cases in the bubble, because you look at cleansing and sanitising pre-travel [before joining the bubble], managed isolation with testing, good social distancing, and the use of health mitigation measures on travel. And then on arrival, a period of time where there is strict isolation inside hotel rooms, along with testing. So you should clear people before they enter into the team environment. And that has proved successful: look at the IPL last year, look at India’s tour of Australia, look at England’s series at home last summer, to cite a few examples.
So it is perfectly reasonable that you can put measures in place to ensure the chances of somebody testing positive is significantly reduced. Having said that, if somebody does test positive, which has also happened, then we are looking at isolation in-room or at a medical facility, and then retesting to make sure it is not a false positive, and then putting in the appropriate medical care around that person.
The other thing that’s going to come into play is understanding what the vaccination status is.” He said. Last but not the least, he said that it was too early to make a decision of conducting the World Cup within closed doors. “It’s too far away. The key thing to me is that we keep learning and we keep listening. We are stronger working together with the other boards and people and our colleagues in the BCCI. The critical thing is, we work together as a cricketing community, so we can put the game on. We are fans as well. I don’t want to cancel tournaments. I want to see live cricket. We are passionate about cricket. And we are passionate about putting on tournaments, we just want to do it safely.”