Lockdown Gone, Cricket On....What does the upcoming India-NZ and India-England series have in store?
by SOUMIK SAHA
With the summer knocking at the door and lockdown packing its bags to bid goodbye, it’s time to get to the cricket pitch. While the UK wait for the 21st of June 2021, party will start for the cricket fans well before the Summer Solstice day. New Zealand will be here to play their two match test series against England between the 2nd and 14th of June 2021.
Then comes the match that cricket lovers around the world has been waiting for a year- India vs New Zealand World Test Championship Final to be held from the 18th to the 22nd of June 2021. Original plan was for the inaugural final of the World Test Championship to be held at the Lord’s, but now it will be held at the Ageas Bowl Stadium at Southampton.
Ageas Bowl Stadium has a five-star hotel facility inside the ground. This means that the two teams along with all its officials will not have to travel to and from the stadium. This will facilitate both the teams to maintain a bio-bubble and will ensure safety of the players and the staffs.
The International Cricket Council in their statement said, “The on-site accommodation will significantly reduce the risk around Covid-19 transmission and better protect the health and safety of everyone involved in delivering the final."
If the withdrawal of the lockdown goes as per plans, then international travels are on the cards from the 17th of May 2021. This means that Indian and Kiwi cricket fans can be allowed to travel to England to watch the match.
However, it has not yet been clarified whether audience will be allowed in the stadium or not. Currently, provisions are being made and a registration process is on for those who are interested.
Manish Tiwari, an expert in cricket economy said: “Lockdown will get over amidst the match on the 21st of June. Allowing spectators will also ensure a lot of Indian tourists coming to the UK for the summer holidays. Fans usually book tickets for a day or two, but spend the rest of the holiday touring the country with friends and family. A lot of people are eagerly waiting to get out of their homes after the lockdown and travel abroad. This will also be a great opportunity for the tourism industry to make a jump start.”
India will be back in England again in the month of August 2021 for a five match test series running through September 2021. The two teams will then fly back to India for the T20 World Cup right after.
Throughout the year the two teams will be playing 9 Tests, 4 T20s, and 4 ODIs as part of an India-England bilateral series which is a part of the Future Cricket Tour Programs (FTP) which has been prepared by the International Cricket Council, BCCI and the ECB Cricket Boards.
The Indian team’s tour of England comes at a time which is crucial in economic terms as well. Manish Tiwari, who’s also a Commonwealth expert emphasises: “Cricket diplomacy will be a crucial part of the upcoming tour. Relationship between India and the UK are at a historic high right now. In the post Brexit world, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is now revisiting his relationship with the nations around the world. India plays an important part in the Commonwealth’s business development. Both PM Johnson and PM Modi will be eager to strengthen ties during these post-Brexit and post-Covid19 times when trade and commerce is gaining pace again.”
In this context, it can be noted that Prime Minister Boris Johnson was invited to be the Chief Guest at the 72nd Republic Day parade in New Delhi on the 26th of January 2021. He could not attend the event due to the fresh strain of Covid19 which forced the UK to another lockdown from the end of December 2020.
What kind of commercial activities happens around a series like the upcoming one? Manish explained: “A lot of business leaders travels to watch such cricket matches. They will do for this series too, if they are allowed. Number of business deals are locked during such tours. It becomes a commercial soiree. I know of multi-million pound deals getting finalised at the stadium while two honchos were watching a match together. It will be an interesting watch this time.”
Hence, it can be concluded that as much is in store off the ground as on it during the upcoming cricket spree. Sourav Ganguly, the President of the BCCI in an interview with a TV channel said last week, “I will go for the World Test Championship and hopefully we can get past New Zealand in the finals.” He holds high hopes after India’s stupendous Test performance against Australia and England. A number of Bollywood celebrities can also be seen on the stands.
However, after the crushing 3-1 defeat on Indian spinning tracks, England would probably welcome the Indian team with green-top wickets rather than red carpets. Whatever the curator’s choices may be, fans like me who have purchased tickets for the fourth day of play can only hope that the matches run that long.
India in England 2021
World Test Championship Final
18-22nd June 2021
India vs New Zealand
India-England Test Series
4-8 August 2021
12-16 August 2021
25-29 August 2021
2-6 September 2021
10-14 September 2021