The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has announced that no professional cricket will be played in England and Wales until July 1 at the earliest due to the global health crisis. However, chief executive says that The Hundred will be “even more important” for the future of English cricket, ruling out the postponement speculations of its inaugural season.
“There will be no cricket unless it’s safe to play,” said Harrison. “Our plan is to reschedule international matches as late as possible in the season to give the best chance of play,” chief executive Tom Harrison said following the ECB board meeting last week. Under the plans, nine rounds of fixtures will be lost in the four-day County Championship season, but time slots for red-ball and white-ball cricket will remain.
They also confirmed that the start date of the season would be pushed back further from May 28, with England’s Test series against West Indies and England women’s white-ball games against India have both officially been postponed., while all matches previously scheduled in June will be moved later in the season. At the time of writing, England has more than 150,000 reported cases that killed over 20,000.
“Our biggest challenge, along with other sports, is how we could seek to implement a bio-secure solution that offers optimum safety and security for all concerned,” Harrison added. England’s Professional Cricketers’ Association backed the ongoing delay, with Chairman Daryl Mitchell saying they welcomed “the steps taken to protect the players and the game at this time”.
Harrison also said that the board had received “multiple offers” from other countries to help them complete the domestic season. “We’ve had offers as far away as Australia and New Zealand,” said Harrison. “Those offers are on the table. The ECB have now put back the start of the 2020 season twice – first to May 28, and now to July 1.
Meanwhile, the future of the debut season of the controversial, The Hundred, a new 100 balls per side format to played by eight franchises rather than English cricket’s established 18 first-class counties remains uncertain, but Harrison insists that the impact of the pandemic “absolutely accelerates” the need for inaugural tournament to be staged.
“The Hundred is a profit centre for the game of cricket in this country, it will generate really important commercial value for the game, and help us achieve the second of our three priorities which is keeping the lights on through the network – making sure county cricket is really healthy and strong long into the future,” Harrison told the British press.
Last month, the ECB announced £61 million ($75 million) aid package in response to the “once in a generation” challenge of the global health crisis. “We were starting from a position of strength – 180,000 tickets were sold – the quickest sale of cricket other than World Cup cricket that we’ve seen, so we’ve got to put the context of the last couple of years into a very different light,” Harrison added.
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