The year 2020 was supposed to be a blockbuster year for sports. Indian Premier League, Tokyo Olympics, Wimbledon and French Opens, ICC World T20 in Australia and the Women’s World Cup in New Zealand. Instead, the coronavirus situation has totally devastated the sporting calendar.
Fans are happy that at least the IPL 2020 is taking place in a bio-secure bubble in UAE. Apart from that, the rest of the cricketing and sporting calendar looks bleak. With vaccine trials now halted, the chances of a COVID-19 vaccine in the near future also appears uncertain.
For cricket, this is not good news. For two nations, it could almost spell disaster. Cricket South Africa is in the midst of an unprecedented crisis partly due to the coronavirus pandemic. Cricket Australia is staring at a doomsday situation due to it. The ongoing developments in Australia and South Africa further dim the mood of a cricketing public that want to see action.
CSA’s ‘malpractice and maladministration’ whammy
On Friday, a unanimous decision was taken when SASCOC (South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee) decided to take over the daily affairs of the Cricket South Africa administration. This was long in the making. For three years, the leadership in Cricket South Africa was under constant chopping and changing.
In the last three years, CSA has had four CEOs – Haroon Lorgat, Thabang Moroe, Jacques Faul and now Kugandrie Govender. Many reports said the failed T20 Global League was the precursor to all the chaos. Cricket South Africa started losing money, ditched many sponsors and acted against the interests of the South Africa Cricketers Association (SACA).
The firing of Thabang Moroe was the last straw. SASCOC is a legislatively created umbrella body under which all South Africa’s sporting federations operate. While it is not a total government institution, it is quasi-governmental because it stems directly from South Africa’s laws. The fact that it is specifically mentioned in their constitution makes it even more worrying.
In the past, cricket boards of Nepal and Zimbabwe have been suspended by the ICC for government interference. The ICC code specifically prohibits government intervention of any kind and it requests member boards to remain autonomous. The definition of autonomy has often been tested, with the Pakistan Cricket Board directly having the patronage of the President of Pakistan.
Australia in dire straits
While the situation in South Africa is primarily due to maladministration and malpractice, in Australia, the coronavirus pandemic is presenting a test of the Cricket Board’s mettle. With cases rising in Victoria and Melbourne, what will be the outcome of the summer schedule is anybody’s guess. The situation has gotten murkier with Seven Media, the official broadcasters of cricket in Australia since 2018, now threatening to cancel the deal altogether.
Channel Seven have reportedly sent an official legal letter to Cricket Australia for breach of AUD 450 million contract and they want to terminate it. A move like this means that Cricket Australia will have no official broadcaster for the international summer. It is like Star Sports and Sky Sports respectively not wanting to telecast cricket matches.
What has resulted in this crisis? Two reasons. One, the Big Bash League will miss most of the star Australian players due to the coronavirus bio-bubbles setup. The lack of certainty in India’s tour of Australia has deepened the crisis.
There are reports that the ODIs and T20Is might be played first and the four Tests later. However, in how many venues and whether it will be behind closed doors is all in the air? Cricket Australia have laid off 80 percent of their staff due to the coronavirus pandemic and a cancellation in the broadcast deal could spell doom as India might not tour the country.
Kevin Pietersen has said the situation in South Africa could bring about the ‘end of cricket’ in the country. He might well be referring to even Australia. No cricket at all in the international summer, especially with the World T20 getting postponed due to the coronavirus is a body blow for cricket in the country. There is real tension off the field and it is only just beginning.