England women’s home series against India is in doubt due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but the ECB remains hopeful that it will be possible for the tour to be completed at some stage this summer.
India are due to play two T20Is and four ODIs in England, with the first game of the tour scheduled for June 25, but with the number of coronavirus-related deaths in the UK continuing to rise at speed and some form of social distancing measures likely still to be in place, it appears unlikely that the series will be played as planned.
All professional cricket in the UK has been postponed until May 28 at the earliest, though there is a growing acceptance that the date will be pushed back. Contingency planning for games scheduled from June onwards is ongoing, but for now, the ECB remains hopeful that fixtures after that date can be fulfilled in some form as possible.
The tour is due to finish on July 9, and England’s next engagement is against South Africa on September 1, while India have no confirmed fixtures after that series. As a result, it may well be possible to find a window for the fixtures in July or August as necessary, particularly if the inaugural season of the Hundred is shortened or pushed back to 2021.
Meanwhile, the ECB has ring-fenced the £20m it has pledged to invest in women’s and girls’ cricket over the next two years as part of its 2019 action plan, allaying fears that investment might be cut due to the financial impact of the pandemic.
A major part of that plan involved the creation of eight semi-professional regional development centres, with a 50-over competition between the new teams due to start in late August.
But the crisis has delayed the process of launching those centres, as the ECB re-evaluates the details of the new domestic structure’s first full season. It remains unclear when and if it will be possible to stage games this summer, and as such various different scenarios are being modelled.
The initial financial commitment of £20million over two years leaves some room for flexibility – it seems likely that most of that investment will take place in 2021 – but the intention to honour that pledge is a boost for the women’s game at a time of uncertainty.
“The ECB remains committed to the transforming women’s and girls’ cricket action plan, despite the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic,” an ECB spokesperson said.
“In light of the current health crisis we need to re-evaluate the logistics of the first year of the new elite domestic structure, both on the field and off the field – including player and staff recruitment, and fixture dates.
“We are currently collaborating closely with our regional hosts and modelling a range of alternative scenarios, including a later start to the season and a reduced season. Although it is not yet on the agenda, a postponement of the first year of elite domestic structure fixtures is also a scenario that may need to come under consideration.
“The board’s initial two-year investment into this long-term plan remains unaffected and close discussions with our regional hosts will continue as the situation becomes clearer.”
Last week, the England women’s squad announced that they have taken a pay cut for the next three months, in line with their coaches and support staff.