The disparity in the level of preparedness of the teams is understood to be the key reason behind the ICC postponing the women’s ODI World Cup from 2021 to 2022, with an eye on maintaining the “integrity of the tournament”.
The ICC has retained the February-March window for the tournament to be played in New Zealand, as well as the format which will feature the eight teams and 31 matches. It is understood the qualifiers would be played in July 2021 in Sri Lanka with ten contestants.
Being one of the first countries to declare itself free of the Covid-19 pandemic, New Zealand was also the first to allow spectators at sporting venues. As of August 7, New Zealand has had a total of 1569 cases since the pandemic took force, with fewer than ten new cases reported since the start of the month. With that in mind the ICC would have been optimistic of hosting the event as per original schedule between February 6 and March 7, 2021.
Biosecurity protocols had already been drawn up by the World Cup’s organising committee, in consultation with the ICC, New Zealand Cricket, and the New Zealand government. Spectators have been present at rugby games in the country, without limitation, since mid-June and there are few restrictions once visitors have completed their two-week quarantine. The teams for the World Cup were originally expected to arrive in New Zealand towards the end of January, but an earlier arrival had been planned, which would have impacted the cost considerations of the tournament.
The ICC had even scheduled the qualifiers in the UAE in November, which would determine the remaining three vacant slots to join the five countries (Australia, England, South Africa, India, and hosts New Zealand) that had already qualified.
However, ESPNcricinfo understands, several member countries, who attended the ICC Business Corporation meeting on Friday, raised concerns about the readiness of most of the eight participants. It is understood that representatives of the Pakistan Cricket Board and Bangladesh Cricket Board were concerned their teams would be under-cooked for the qualifiers, having played no cricket for several months.
For other teams, too, the T20 World Cup was the last time they featured in any cricket. Also with not much women’s international cricket scheduled globally due to the pandemic, it would diminish the product and the competition.
With the UAE being selective about allowing visitors from various countries, the ICC, it is understood, was also concerned about getting permission for countries playing in the qualifiers there.
“We have taken the decision to move the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup to give players from every competing nation, the best opportunity to be ready for the world’s biggest stage and there is still a global qualifier to complete to decide the final three teams,” Manu Sawhney, the ICC chief executive said in a media release on Friday. “Moving the event by 12 months gives all competing teams the chance to play a sufficient level of cricket ahead of both the qualification event and leading into a Cricket World Cup so the integrity of the tournament is maintained.”