IPL ponders September restart in challenge to crowded calendar

Sourav Ganguly, president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, has confirmed the Indian Premier League is exploring a possible September restart in a move that would cause significant headaches for the international game.

Speaking after an outbreak of Covid-19 among the franchises caused the IPL to be suspended this week with 31 games still to play, Ganguly said that failing to complete the 2021 tournament would incur a £245m loss for the BCCI.

As such, one proposal would be to stage the IPL after India’s tour of England – due to end on 14 September – and before the T20 World Cup that begins on 20 October, with Ganguly, the former India captain, saying: “We have to speak to other boards and see if a window can be made available.”

However, doing so would present a direct clash with a number of bilateral series scheduled as preparation for the global tournament, including England’s six-match white-ball tour of Bangladesh, scheduled to depart on 20 September, and then the two Twenty20 internationals in Pakistan on 14 and 15 October.

The England and Wales Cricket Board has said it remains committed to both trips, throwing up the possibility of IPL players such as Eoin Morgan, Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes being torn between their country and, pro-rata, their biggest paymasters.

Ashley Giles, director of the England men’s team, would certainly struggle to justify the policy under which England’s IPL players were originally allowed to miss the Test series against New Zealand from 2 June. In that instance, the late addition of the two Tests to the schedule was cited as the reason for flexibility.

India’s ability to stage the IPL’s restart and the T20 World Cup is clearly in doubt and the United Arab Emirates is on standby for both. However, according to reports, Surrey, MCC (Lord’s), Lancashire and Warwickshire are proposing to host a crunched-down finish to the IPL in the UK during the second half of September.

It is an ambitious idea given the sheer volume of cricketers and support staff required to travel and quarantine, even factoring in that India’s Test players would already be in the country. An ECB spokesperson said: “We speak to the BCCI regularly about tours and other matters and we’ll continue doing so, but we have received no indication that they are looking for alternative hosts for the IPL at the moment.”

Meanwhile New Zealand have confirmed Trent Boult will miss the first Test against England at Lord’s next month and possibly the second at Edgbaston following a request to fly home and see his family after the IPL’s collapse.

The left-armer is in line to return for the World Test Championship final against India in Southampton on 18 June, while the remaining Black Caps players at the IPL – Kane Williamson, Kyle Jamieson and Mitch Santner – will fly to the UK next Tuesday ahead of the full squad travelling on 16 and 17 May.

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