T20 World Cup: India and Pakistan games to continue on neutral grounds for foreseeable future

The ICC’s Geoff Allardice said a return to bilateral Indian tours between the two countries was a distant prospect.

Geoff Allardice, the acting chief executive of the International Cricket Council, admitted the prospect of India and Pakistan resuming bilateral tours anytime soon seems a distant prospect. India last welcomed their neighbors in 2013 but that has been the only series between the teams in 13 years, with relations strained following the Mumbai terrorist attacks, for which a Pakistan-based militant group was blamed. The teams only currently go head-to-head in global ICC events, most recently last month when Pakistan claimed their first-ever World Cup win over their arch-rivals at the 13th attempt in a highly-charged atmosphere in Dubai.

While the eagerly-anticipated matches between the countries bring in the biggest audiences and therefore greater revenue, ongoing geopolitical tensions mean the ICC is powerless to get them to play each other voluntarily. “We obviously enjoy it when they play each other in our events,” Allardice said. “But the relationship between the two countries and the boards is something the ICC isn’t able to influence. “Like any bilateral cricket, if the two boards agree, they play. If they don’t, then they don’t. I suppose we’re not seeing much of a change on the horizon.”

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The stand-off means the nations will continue to be separated during the World Test Championship group phase – and in the event, they both reach the final, the one-off match will be played away from India and Pakistan. “It’s just a pragmatic approach to keep them apart and let the competition function,” Allardice said. “If they both make it to the final of an ICC tournament, then playing each other at a neutral venue.” The ongoing T20 World Cup, scheduled to conclude with the final in Dubai on Sunday, has been carried out with all team employees kept in strict bio-secure bubbles, allowing the tournament to progress amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

England captain Eoin Morgan and assistant coach Paul Collingwood are among those to question the sustainability of these environments as successful vaccination drives have led to a number of countries opening up again. Allardice is optimistic such a stringent approach to restrictions may not be necessary at the next men’s T20 World Cup, which is slated to take place next year in Australia. “It’s been a very difficult 12-18 months for cricketers and cricket generally,” he said. “In the lead up to this tournament it was one of our main focuses; we needed to deliver it safely and in full.

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“The way it has gone, we are pleased about it. Hopefully, restrictions around the world are relaxing and quarantine requirements will be a little bit easier than they were in the past 12 months. “I am hoping that in 12 months’ time when we get to the equivalent of this event, the requirements will be a little bit different. “It’s a big tournament with 16 nations and across states in Australia and the more uniform rules are the better it will be from an organizational point of view.”

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The ongoing T20 World Cup, scheduled to conclude with the final in Dubai on Sunday, has been carried out with all team employees kept in strict bio-secure bubbles, allowing the tournament to progress amid the Covid-19 pandemic. England captain Eoin Morgan and assistant coach Paul Collingwood are among those to question the sustainability of these environments as successful vaccination drives have led to a number of countries opening up again.

The stand-off means the nations will continue to be separated during the World Test Championship group phase – and in the event, they both reach the final, the one-off match will be played away from India and Pakistan. While the eagerly-anticipated matches between the countries bring in the biggest audiences and therefore greater revenue, ongoing geopolitical tensions mean the ICC is powerless to get them to play each other voluntarily.