A Three-Match series against England would appear to be Ireland’s only hope of international cricket this season after Cricket Ireland formally announced yesterday that the home series against New Zealand and Pakistan have been postponed.
New Zealand were due to visit Northern Ireland for six-white ball fixtures from June 19-July 2 and Pakistan were scheduled to play two T20 internationals in Malahide later in July but the New Zealand board told Cricket Ireland this week they could not travel and there were too many obstacles to fitting in the Pakistan games.
The decisions were taken at the Cricket Ireland board meeting which also discussed the possibility of cricket resuming at representative and club level. But while they are seeking approval from the Irish government for limited training to resume next month, the Northern Ireland Executive have not given any timeline for a resumption date and so the board were unable to give any advice.
The board still have not given up on being co-hosts of the Euro T20 Slam this season but with time running out a definitive decision will be taken at next month’s meeting.
In the current climate, the New Zealand ODIs and T20Is were always going to be a non-starter, even before the visitors’ formal cancellation, but Cricket Ireland chief executive Warren Deutrom admitted they did try to save the games against Pakistan.
“With the Irish government announcement on May 1, it automatically became impossible to host the matches in Dublin on the scheduled dates,” said Deutrom. “We considered delaying the fixtures or playing them elsewhere but (this) also revolved around Pakistan’s fixture commitments in England which still remain subject to UK Government approval. With numerous complications it just hasn’t been possible to find a way to get the matches played.”
The best case scenario for any international action is the three-match ODI series against England and the board are happy to work with the ECB to fit them into their summer schedule, although not in their original September dates.
“We will try to be as flexible as possible around these as they are currently set to be our first fixtures as part of the new World Cup (Qualifying) Super League,” added Deutrom, however numerous challenges have to be resolved, notably around timing, bio-secure venues and quarantine requirements for players who travel.”
I understand Old Trafford remains the likely venue for the games, at the end of June, beginning of July, if the issues can be worked through. As for a resumption of club cricket, the board considered a draft Safe Return to Cricket Policy, which will form the basis of Cricket Ireland’s submission for a gradual build-up of activity in line with the respective governments’ five-step plan.
“We understand the desire for getting back on the cricket pitch and rest assure we are working hard to ensure this can happen,” said Deutrom. “Like pretty much everyone involved in cricket, we want to see the sport resume at the earliest — however, it needs to occur in a managed way that prioritises the health and safety of the cricket community.
“The draft plan we are finalising looks at how the mechanics of the sport (such as close-in fielders, slip cordons, ball shining) sharing of equipment/facilities, temperature testing, at risk participants, even insurance liabilities, can all be properly understood to ensure we don’t expose any members of the cricket family to risk.
“This process will not be like flicking a switch and social distancing in a cricket context means we need to ask for continued patience from the cricket community while we work with government, sports and health authorities on both sides of the border to see cricket resume in 2020.”
“We will advise as soon as possible regarding the time and detail of what will be required in order to re-start training.”
The board was told it can expect a 30% drop in revenue year-on-year, offset against savings from the non-hosting of cricket. However, an exponential growth in international fixtures home and away can be expected next year, following this summer’s postponements.
The Cricket Ireland AGM, meanwhile, in these unprecedented times will take place ‘virtually’ on Tuesday July 14.