In a further blow to hopes that European cricket might see something like a return to normality in 2021, the ICC announced on Friday that the three sub-regional qualifiers for the Men’s T20 World Cup 2022, scheduled to be held in Finland and Belgium in June and July have been cancelled.
With the COVID-19 pandemic still raging across much of the Continent and the benefits of vaccination programmes yet to become evident, the ICC had no alternative but to abandon the events, which would have seen Finland hosting international tournaments for the first time.
According to the Council’s statement, more than half the 25 participants are ‘still facing restrictions on free movement and extensive quarantine periods for returning Members back to their home countries, as well as domestic restrictions in place preventing teams from selecting and preparing squads for the tournaments.’
With the pandemic easing only gradually and tough restrictions still in place, the Belgian government was also unwilling to agree in full to the bio-safety mitigation strategies proposed by the ICC.
The cancellations once again underline the stark difference between the conditions which affect fully professional sport and the lower reaches, although when even the IPL is forced to bow to the inevitable it could hardly be expected that the sub-regional qualifiers could have escaped.
Belgium’s Host Tournament Director Nick Compton and Cricket Finland Operations Director Maija Scamans both acknowledged that the decision was a necessary response to the continuing pandemic, while hoping that it would be possible to resume international cricket in the near future.
ICC Head of Events Chris Tetley noted that in addition to the COVID restrictions, ‘the short timelines that the European season provides’ made abandoning the tournaments inevitable.
The cancellations will come as a particular blow to Hungary, Romania and Serbia, who were set to make their debut in ICC tournaments.
But there was some compensation for Denmark, Germany and Italy, who will now join Jersey in the European qualifier in Spain in October. This decision is based on the Men’s T20I rankings as at 30 April 2020.
The two top sides from this tournament (assuming it is able to go ahead) will progress to the global qualifiers.
In addition to cancelling the three sub-regional European qualifiers, the ICC has postponed the Men’s Asia B qualifier, scheduled for Malaysia in July, to 9-15 November 2021, and the Women’s T20 Asia qualifier, also to be played in Malaysia, to 22-28 November.
The Men’s America, due to be played in Canada from 17 to 23 July, has also been postponed, although no new venue or dates have yet been announced.
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