The T20 World Cup has been shifted to the United Arab Emirates and Oman due to the coronavirus situation in India, cricket’s world body confirmed on Tuesday.
The tournament was originally scheduled in India but the country is emerging from a Covid-19 surge in April and May, and experts fear a new wave of cases later this year.
“Our priority is to deliver the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 safely, in full and in its current window,” said Geoff Allardice, acting chief executive of the International Cricket Council.
“Whilst we are incredibly disappointed not to be hosting the event in India, the decision gives us the certainty we need to stage the event in a country that is a proven international host of multiteam events in a bio-secure environment.”
The Board of Control for Cricket in India had already said on Monday the tournament would be shifted.
The event will take place from 17 October to 14 November.
It will be held across four venues – the Dubai International Stadium, the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, the Sharjah Stadium, and the Oman Cricket Academy Ground.
The ICC had given the BCCI a deadline of the end of June to decide the host country for T20’s showpiece event due to the high number of Covid-19 cases in India.
The BCCI had already moved the suspended Indian Premier League to the UAE in September-October after the T20 tournament was halted on 4 May due to a number of players and team officials being infected with Covid-19.
At the time, India was experiencing a massive surge in coronavirus cases that overwhelmed the health system in many places, and much of the country was under lockdown.
India, home to 1.3-billion people, has eased many lockdown restrictions in recent weeks following a sharp fall in the number of new infections.
The pandemic disrupted the global cricket calendar last year and even after the matches resumed in July 2020, players have been confined to strict bio-bubbles and quarantine protocols.
The ICC postponed the T20 World Cup originally scheduled to be held in Australia in 2020.
India was handed the hosting rights in 2021 and Australia was chosen as host for the 2022 edition.
The UAE has been a preferred destination for cricket as the Pakistan Super League was completed last week in the Gulf nation. The IPL was also held in the UAE last year.
The vice-president of the Emirates Cricket Board, Khalid Al Zarooni, said, “The UAE’s reputation as being a safe country in which to host high-profile sporting events is a strong compliment to our government’s unwavering commitment to implementing and monitoring effective health practices during the pandemic.”
The UAE, though, is on Britain’s ‘red list’ and on Monday the United States raised its travel warning for the Gulf country to its highest level citing a “very high level” of Covid-19 infections.
The UAE has, however, some of the highest vaccination rates worldwide, and life in the country has largely returned to normal although strict rules on masks and social distancing remain.
The first round of the T20 World Cup, comprising eight qualifying teams, will be split between Oman and UAE. Four of these teams will then progress to the Super 12s round where they will join the eight automatic qualifiers.
The teams competing in the preliminary stage are Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Ireland, Netherlands, Scotland, Namibia, Oman and Papua New Guinea, before the playoff stage and the final on 14 November.
© Agence France-Presse