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Hard to see World T20 getting green light, says Balbirnie

 

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Major doubts: Ireland ace Andrew Balbirnie

Major doubts: Ireland ace Andrew Balbirnie

�INPHO/Tommy Dickson

Major doubts: Ireland ace Andrew Balbirnie

Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie believes the logistical challenges posed by coronavirus means he is doubtful the Twenty20 World Cup will be able to proceed as planned in Australia later this year.

The International Cricket Council are keen to push ahead with the 16-team tournament from October 18 to November 15 but all options are being considered amid the global public health crisis.

Given the vagaries of the pandemic and with several major nations still under some form of lockdown, the idea of a competition hosting 45 matches in 29 days in less than six months' time might seem improbable, something Balbirnie subscribes to.

"I'd be worried the tournament wouldn't go ahead," skipper Balbirnie said.

"You have to look at it logistically - there would be 16 teams flying into the country.

"The way this pandemic has panned out, a lot can happen in a couple of days, so we really don't know yet. It's tricky, but we're battling on."

Ireland are due to play Sri Lanka, Oman and Papua New Guinea in one of two round-robin preliminary groups, with the top two progressing to the 'Super 12' stage.

In the event the T20 World Cup goes ahead, Balbirnie admitted to fears his side could be under-prepared given their schedule has been wrecked, with series against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh already called off.

However, no official announcement has been made about their three one-day internationals against England in September. These fixtures could take place earlier in the summer at different venues given the need for 'bio-secure' environments.

Balbirnie added: "It's going to be a unique situation. There (might not) have been any international cricket this summer at all, so there will be a lot of people going in under-cooked.

"When we get back training, we will have to be really specific as to what we want to do."

Meanwhile, Cricket Ireland board will meet tomorrow to give further guidance on the possibility of play this season.

The Republic of Ireland government has already said that cricket cannot be played before July 20 and the Northern Ireland Executive is expected to detail a road map for the province today, including the timing for the resumption of sport.

Cricket Ireland met with the general managers of the provincial unions last week over their proposed plans and tomorrow the board will confirm their 'Safe Return to Play' protocols.

In an update yesterday, Cricket Ireland said: "We hope to see a phased reintroduction of training and then hopefully competitive matches in line with government guidelines."

For now, though, there is no cricket activity - including training - until June 1 at the earliest.

The NCU board will meet on Thursday to update their pathway for the summer and are also expected to give the clubs' responses to the proposed restructuring of their league competitions, although if there is no meaningful cricket this season any change is set to be delayed until the 2022 season.

The inaugural Euro T20 Slam, which was postponed from last year, will also be discussed at the CI board meeting tomorrow with the likely scenario being another postponement for the tournament.

- Former Australia captain Ian Chappell says some form of ball-tampering could be allowed in cricket, with saliva and sweat considered health risks due to the coronavirus crisis.

Bowlers regularly shine one side of the leather-clad ball to make it swing sideways in mid-flight and deceive the batsman.

But rubbing spit or sweat into the ball's surface is expressly forbidden under new Australian Institute of Sport guidelines that set out the conditions for the game to resume.

Chappell has previously suggested that international captains be asked to come up with a list of natural substances bowlers feel would help them swing the ball.

And, writing online, he said fans craved a genuine contest between bat and ball.

"From this list, the administrators should deem one method to be legal with all others being punishable as illegal," he wrote.

"With cricket on hold, this is the ideal time to conduct the exercise.

"Using saliva and perspiration are now seen as a health hazard, so bowlers require something to replace the traditional methods of shining the ball."

Australian ball manufacturer Kookaburra is developing a wax applicator that would allow bowlers to shine the ball.

The innovation involves using a sponge to apply small amounts of wax to the ball.

Belfast Telegraph