Sri Lanka Cricket has suffered a major jolt in its bid to find media and ground sponsorship rights partners. India’s scheduled tour of Sri Lanka during the month of June-July has been postponed due to COVID-19 pandemic.
The Indian cricketers have not even resumed their training ever since a countrywide lockdown was imposed in the last week of March. There was no way the Board of Control for Cricket in India could have agreed to send the team for the limited overs series in the island nation. Sri Lanka Cricket was left with no option but to postpone the series.
South Africa’s tour of Sri Lanka last month has already been cancelled, while the three-Test series against Bangladesh has been deferred from July to September.
“What we are planning now is to play the domestic tournament in July and then perhaps to host Bangaldesh in September,” an SLC official has told the Sri Lankan daily The Island.
Sri Lanka has been struggling to find a viable media and ground sponsorship rights deal since March. But there has been no considerable interest.
Since SLC were scheduled to host two tours of India during the rights period, it was pinning hopes on Sony Sports Pictures Network for lucrative media rights values. However, the uncertainty around the India series this year and next tour slated a year later in July 2021, SLC can plunge into deep trouble to find a media rights partner and desired values.
The two India tours would account for almost 80% of the total media rights value.
Meanwhile, a dozen contracted players in Sri Lanka have started training in Colombo from Wednesday. Captain Dimuth Karunaratne too has joined the camp, but they will not have any international cricket at least till September when Bangladesh are scheduled to play three Tests. Sri Lanka can replace one Test with several limited overs games for commercial viability.
Sri Lanka, however, will try and persuade the Board of Control for Cricket in India to reschedule the tour sometime this year. But there seems little hope as the BCCI is aiming for the Indian Premier League in October-November and then Team India will have to visit Australia.
SLC has been compelled to miss or defer three major series – South Africa, Bangladesh and India – ever since England had to leave midway through their tour due to novel coronavirus fears.
Gaurav Bhardwaj is an independent sports media rights and broadcast consultant.