Covid cancellations in Europe...
For this week's column I was originally planning on talking about the resumption of club cricket across Europe and how it was a positive sign of a return to normality. However then came the news that the European sub-regional qualifiers for the 2022 T20 World Cup had been cancelled with Germany, Italy and Denmark progressing to the final alongside Jersey on the basis of their rankings. At present time that is scheduled for October in Spain.
The ICC said that the sub-regionals had to be completed by the end of July in order for the final to take place in October. However, Spain is capable of hosting cricket year round so was there not scope for delaying the final to allow more time for the sub-regionals to take place? Could the final not have been expanded to allow more teams to take part? The second highest ranked team in each group - Guernsey, Austria and Norway would have certainly been fancying their chances at taking one of the three final spots.
For all teams, the chance to be seen by a wider audience due to the ICC's new streaming deal has been lost.
The decision to use rankings to decide qualifiers may seem sensible on the surface, but the volatile nature of the ICC's T20I rankings means that it could cause some unintended consequences down the line if there are further cancellations. Of the teams in the final, Jersey are currently ranked the highest. Are they going to play bilateral T20Is and put their ranking at risk? We have seen this at higher levels when Pakistan cancelled an ODI series just before the cut-off point for qualification for the 2017 Champions Trophy when a defeat would have cost them their spot in the tournament.
One would hope that associates wouldn't be so cynical, but given the potential financial boost to qualification these days, it remains a possibility.
...but postponements in the Americas...
In contrast to the cancellations in Europe, the Americas regional final set for Canada in July has - as predicted in this column one month ago - been postponed rather than cancelled. Canada - particularly the province of Ontario - is struggling with the pandemic and with other events in the Canadian season already postponed or moved to other countries, the decision was inevitable.
However, why the postponement and not cancellation as in Europe? Obviously this is the final rather than a sub-regional, but the cynical might point to ICC favourites USA currently being behind Canada and Bermuda in the rankings and hence set to miss out on progression should the tournament be cancelled.
It seems likely that Canada will lose the tournament - Canada certainly doesn't have Spain's ability to host year round cricket! Parts of the USA can host cricket late into the year, whilst Bermuda and Argentina are also potential hosts.
...and tournament at risk in Scotland
The horrifying scenes caused by the substantial wave of Covid in India have started to cross the border into Nepal. The 7-day moving average of new cases has risen from 250 one month ago to 8,142 as of the latest data yesterday. Obviously sympathies go out to all those who are impacted.
Nepal was added to the UK's red-list for travel, meaning that non-UK citizens can not travel to the UK if they have been in the country in the previous ten days. Namibia are also on this list and the men's cricket teams of those two countries are currently set to travel to Scotland in July for what would be the first CWC League 2 series since February 2020.
There will be another review of the red list in three weeks time and if both countries remain on the list then it seems unlikely that they will come off it in time for arrangements to be made. As things stand, the tri-series would appear to be unlikely to happen.
But some things are still going ahead
After all that Covid related negativity I feel the need to end this week's column on a positive note. So it was a delight to see this week that Scotland's women's team will be travelling to Belfast later this month for a four match T20I series against their Irish counterparts.
Neither team has played since September 2019 and have faced cancellations of their own over the last 12 months. Scotland will be using the series as part of their preparation for World Cup and Commonwealth Games qualification.
Also going ahead later this month will be the Central Europe Cup in Prague. Malta may have had to withdraw but Luxembourg and Austria will still be travelling to the Czech capital for a tri-series with the hosts. It may have lost its status as preparation for World Cup qualifiers, but all three teams will be keen to get some cricket under their belts.