Cricket’s changing priorities were laid bare on Wednesday when it became clear that India intends to stage the Indian Premier League in the autumn, which would force the postponement of the Twenty20 World Cup.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India is looking to stage the IPL between Sept 25 and Nov 1, at this stage in India, but with the United Arab Emirates as a fallback if lockdown laws prevent the tournament taking place in its home country.
Pressure will now mount on the International Cricket Council to postpone the Twenty20 World Cup, which is due to be held in Australia from Oct 18, at its board meeting next week.
The complications of 16 teams from around the world flying in to Australia as the world battles the pandemic is likely to prompt the ICC to put the tournament back by 12 months, which would allow the IPL to take its window.
It would be a major setback for the smaller nations who rely greatly on income from ICC events to survive.
However, for India the IPL is vastly more lucrative than global tournaments and it would be good news for those England players who have IPL deals.
If the IPL is played from Sept 25-Nov 1 it would mean the England one-day series in India in September has either been delayed or scheduled to end before the tournament starts. Dates for the series have not been agreed and it looks set to be postponed.
The England players, if restrictions on foreigners entering India are relaxed, will be able to earn their IPL salaries, almost £1 million in Ben Stokes’s case.
India’s thinking was crystallised in a report released on Wednesday which claimed the world game could not afford for the IPL to be cancelled this year. The report was written by Sundar Raman, the former chief executive of the IPL, who stated the tournament was worth 70 per cent more in revenue than the Twenty20 World Cup.
Its $100 million (£81.7 million) annual player salary bill alone is the equivalent of broadcast deals for several nations.
Raman argued that while this year’s Twenty20 World Cup could be moved back to October 2021 (when another edition of the tournament is due to be held in India), the IPL has no such wriggle room.
With the Twenty20 World Cup in major doubt anyway because of coronavirus restrictions, and likely to be played behind closed doors if it goes ahead at all, Raman said it was better to prioritise the IPL.
It echoes the warning from Manoj Badale, the part owner of the Rajasthan Royals, who told Telegraph Sport last month that cancelling the IPL would be financially disastrous for the game.
“No IPL [in 2020] would be a big $600 million loss for the global cricket economy – affecting the top talent, the investors, the BCCI and the enormous supply chain involved in the production of the event,” he said.
Rahul Johri, the chief executive of the Indian board, made it clear yesterday that it intended to prioritise the IPL. “IPL is one of the greatest engagers. More people watched the IPL last year than those who voted for general elections,” he said. “The flavour of IPL is that the best players of the world come and play, and everyone is committed to maintaining that flow. But it will be a step-by-step process. We can’t expect normalisation tomorrow.”
England will begin training on Thursday as they step up preparations for a return to Test cricket in July. It was announced on Wednesday that “up to” 18 bowlers would return to individual training across seven venues from today with batsmen and wicketkeepers due to begin training from June 1.