D-day approaches for Irish cricket's summer plans

Cricket Ireland will this week decide whether their summer series against New Zealand and Pakistan can go ahead, or if they are to join the growing list of top sporting fixtures postponed or canned as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
D-day approaches for Irish cricket's summer plans

Cricket Ireland will this week decide whether their summer series against New Zealand and Pakistan can go ahead, or if they are to join the growing list of top sporting fixtures postponed or canned as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The signs are not promising.

New Zealand cricket chief David White described the prospect of the Black Caps touring Scotland and Ireland in June as “highly unlikely” a month ago while his Irish counterpart Warren Deutrom has also accepted that the chances of Ireland's fixtures going ahead are “high-risk”.

A Cricket Ireland board meeting is now expected to make that call one way or another this Wednesday with the organisation fast approaching the point where hotel deposits and other financial commitments need to be either confirmed or pulled.

The men's side have already seen series against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh fall foul of the global health crisis and it now seems that their three ODI's (one-day internationals) against England at Trent Bridge, Edgbaston and The Oval are under threat as well.

Reports in England claimed that three ODIs and T20s between England and Australia, scheduled for July across the Irish Sea, are being mooted for a move to September in place of the planned Ireland series after talks between English and Australian officials.

Deutrom has previously expressed a willingness to be flexible on these September dates on the basis of the support afforded the game here by our English neighbours but this is far from the only additional uncertainty this week.

Men's captain Andy Balbirnie has spoken to BBC Ulster about his concerns over whether the T20 World Cup, in which Ireland is due to participate, will actually take place in Australia this October.

The Irish women's team is wading through currents equally unpredictable with the International Cricket Council (ICC) expected to make a decision on the World Cup qualification event, down for decision in Sri Lanka in July, when they meet again at the end of this month.

The complications involved with any sporting event on the international stage are obvious but the bid to get domestic sport up and running again is far from simple, as all-island organisations such as Cricket Ireland know all too well.

The body will have to digest the Northern Ireland Executive's expected roadmap for opening society, expected today, and then compare and contrast it to the document already circulated in the Republic. The time frames in each will be crucial.

The Irish blueprint is challenging enough in its own right for the provincial unions and the 119 cricket clubs dotted around the 32 counties, some of whom play on public ground and others for whom private club grounds are home.

Among the safety protocols required when re-opening clubs on a phased basis will be the need for a COVID-19 safety officer who, among other things, will need to be notified every time a member leaves the house with the expressed purpose of attending the club.

A long road lies ahead.

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