T20 WC: BCCI says player safety priority as Australia readies to allow fans in stadiums

New Delhi: Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison in a boost to the fate of the 2020 T20 World Cup said on Friday that sports stadiums capable of seating 40,000 people will be allowed to host crowds of up to 10,000 from next month. But the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) doesnt want to look too far ahead and believes that the directives of the Indian government would dictate if they can participate in the showpiece event.

Speaking to IANS, a BCCI official said that while the Indian team would be more than willing to be a part of the T20 World Cup, it will all finally come down to the directives issued by the government as well as the health professionals as the safety of the players is priority.

“It is a bold step by the Australian government and I am sure they have taken the step after assessing their circumstances for sports in Australia. We would be only happy to participate in the T20 World Cup in Australia but there are a lot of things that are in play and they all centre around health. The factors that affect the decision finally are factors that are not in the control of the BCCI.

“We would have to decide in accordance with the directives of our government and the advice of health professionals. The safety of our players and fans is paramount for us and it is not that the team has to travel in an exclusive and disinfected bus from Mumbai to Pune and play there and come back straight from the ground to their respective homes in a completely controlled environment,” the official pointed.

In fact, the official said that the presence of fans could actually be a risk. “The presence of fans in the stadium is going to be a huge risk in a world event, especially on account of a longish incubation period of COVID-19 and the presence of asymptomatic carriers,” the official explained.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) is still in the ‘wait and watch’ mode as it says contingency planning is on to hold the event as per schedule.

An ICC official — without getting into the details of the further relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions in Australia and its effect on the fate of the showpiece event — said that contingency planning was on to host the tournament as per schedule. The event is to be played from October 18 to November 15.

“We are continuing our contingency planning as we have already stated whilst planning for the event in its original window continues,” the official told IANS.

Asked if allowing entrance of spectators into stadiums meant a boost to the planning since quite a few cricketers have also spoken about not being too comfortable with the idea of playing a T20 World Cup in front of empty stands, the official said: “Nothing to add.”

Speaking to IANS, sources in the know of developments inside the last couple of ICC meetings said that entrance of people into the country would also play a major role since Australia is yet to open international boundaries.

“See, allowing fans could be a boost or a risk as contact tracing could be an issue if someone turns positive inside the stadium. But more importantly, the point remains that international boundaries are still not open in Australia.

“Also, the way the England-West Indies series pans out will have an overall impact on the whole process of future planning. Don’t read too much into empty stands and stands filled with spectators because these have already been part of the plans the board members have discussed in the last few meetings,” the source pointed.

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