The England and Wales Cricket Council (ECB) may not satisfy any possible requests from the Indian Cricket Board to promote the five-match series between India and England to ensure that The Hundred does not lose any more luster, it has become clear.
The Hundred begins on July 21, while the test series begins on August 4. The ECB, in desperation to save the 100-ball tournament, wants all the English stars to be available for the tournament, which has already missed out to foreign stars from Australia, Pakistan and the West Indies, as they will be busy with international commitments.
While the ECB told IANS on Friday that it had not received a request from the Cricket Governing Council of India (BCCI) to continue the series of Tests, there is speculation that it may want the series to end earlier than September 14, for to take 20-22 days to complete the Indian Premier League in 2021 (IPL). The tournament, which was postponed in the middle of the group stage due to Covid-19 in May, could take place in the UAE.
According to sources, the Board conducted an informal investigation, a statement backed by a report in The Times.
However, the ECB is in a situation of catch 22. Although it does not want to spoil its relationship with the BCCI, it wants stars for a home test such as Joss Butler,, Johnny Beirstov and Sam Quran, among others, to be available for The Hundred, a tournament offered as a cash spinner.
“The request (from the BCCI for the rest of the series) puts the ECB in a difficult position, stuck between the scale of the desire to maintain good relations with the most powerful cricket nation, and to be as flexible and useful as possible given the postponement of the largest play financially lucrative competition and a difficult place not to affect your own carefully planned internal schedule.
“At this late stage, it is difficult to see the ECB join any potential change and it is expected to hold on,” former England captain Michael Atherton wrote on Thursday.
“In principle, each move would affect the small window in the international calendar set up by the ECB for the Hundred, the new short race organized in mid-summer between the end of the one-day series against Pakistan and the start of tests in India.
“We hope that England’s players will be available for the start of a competition, a long pregnancy that is expected to be further shattered by withdrawals from other players abroad in the coming weeks,” Atherton wrote.
Another problem that has arisen is that tickets for the first three days of the fifth and final test at Old Trafford, from 10 to 14 September, have already sold out. If the series is advanced, it will create a logistical headache.
“Moving the game at this late stage to earlier in the season would create logistical headaches for Lancashire, the ECB and the England team, not to mention those spectators who have spent money and planned to attend,” added Atherton.
Australian stars Glenn Maxwell, David Warner, Aaron Finch,, Marcus Stoinis,, Adam Zampa and Joy Richardson all have signed up for the first edition of the Hundred. However, all these players are listed in the Australian preliminary team, which will tour the West Indies for five T20 Internationals and three ODIs between 9 and 24 July.
Australia can then also tour Bangladesh for a limited series, which could be a warm-up for the T20 World Cup, which is currently due to be played this October-November in India.
In addition to the Australian stars, some famous players from the West Indies, such as Kieran Pollard, Andre Russell and Nicholas Puran, may also have to miss the tournament, as they will be busy against the visiting Australians at home.
The West Indies also play Pakistan from July 27 to August 3 in five T20 Internationals and in two test matches from August 12 to 24.
Three Pakistani players – Mohamed Amir, Shahin Afridi and Shadab Khan – are in the Hundred. Although Amir is no longer part of the Pakistani team, both Afridi and Khan are an integral part of the Pakistani organization. They may also miss the Hundred.
The unavailability of top foreign stars in The Hundred could force the ECB to keep English players in the tournament and thus not comply with any requests to extend the dates for the test series against India.