Malaysia will bid to host a major tournament during the 2023-31 cycle of International Cricket Council (ICC) events, as the Southeast Asian country eyes staging a T20 World Cup to establish itself as a hub for cricket’s shortest format.
No Associates nation – teams outside the 12 Full Members – has been the designated host of a World Cup but momentum is building within the ICC to spread cricket’s flagship events beyond its heartland.
During the current cycle, the six global men’s events are being staged in the so-called ‘big three’ of Australia, England or India – the sport’s biggest markets.
The U.S. and the West Indies are set to bid to co-host a T20 World Cup in either 2026 or 2030 and, according to sources, appear the favorites to nab one of those tournaments. There has long been a push by cricket administrators for a World Cup to be played in the lucrative market of the U.S. in an effort to grow the game there.
That would seemingly make Malaysia’s prospects tougher although it has experience in hosting big cricket events, including the 2008 Under-19 World Cup.
Malaysian Cricket Association (MCA) president Mahinda Vallipuram confirmed it had submitted an expression of interest to the ICC to host a major event with the formal bidding process expected to start soon. The ICC was expected to announce the hosts for the 2023-31 cycle by the end of the year but it could be delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Vallipuram believed the time was right for an Associates nation to host a leading cricket event. “Where world cricket is today, the fan base is increasing all the time,” he told me. “It’s a natural step to consider taking the sport to the Associates to further grow the game.
“It’s about impacting the game beyond 2031. The quality of the game has improved and will further do so by promoting it beyond the traditional countries.”
Vallipuram said Malaysia had yet to pinpoint an exact tournament with all events being considered but hoped to host “as early as possible”. “I think it is crucial that Malaysian cricket goes ahead and puts a bid,” he said. “Let’s be realistic, I don’t think it’s in our control. Malaysia is ready to put a bid and be considered in the cycle.
“I think the country and region will benefit from this exposure.”
Malaysia believed it could solely host a T20 World Cup although partnering with neighbor Singapore and possibly Thailand could be alternative options if needed.
Emerging Singapore, who have risen to 20th in the T20 International rankings, boasts its flashy Sports Hub with a centerpiece 55,000 seat stadium capable of being configured for cricket purposes but has yet to host a match. Thailand have become a fairy tale cricket story after its women’s side qualified for the 10-team T20 World Cup earlier this year.
Malaysian cricket authorities are optimistic about winning a bid fueled by a visit earlier in the year from ICC chief executive Manu Sawhney and then general manager Campbell Jamieson, which included a meeting with then Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
A subsequent official letter from Mahathir supported a potential bid, which could open up invaluable government grants if Malaysia wins out.
Through its British historical footprint, Malaysia already boasts enviable cricket infrastructure with its facilities scrutinized in recent years by Pakistan, whose women’s team hosted limited-overs series at Kinrara Oval in Kuala Lumpur against England and Australia.
Malaysian cricket administrators have long attempted to lure Pakistan, who were cricketing vagabonds last decade. Malaysia was in the running to become a home base for Pakistan but lost out to the UAE and also held similar discussions with Afghanistan after it became a Full Member in 2017.
The Pakistan Cricket Board had initially contemplated hosting a two-Test series in 2018 against Australia in Malaysia before settling on the UAE.
Malaysia’s increased profile underlines its requisite facilities needed to host top-shelf international cricket, according to Vallipuram. “Over the years we have certainly positioned ourselves to host elite cricket,” he said. “Just within Kuala Lumpur there are at least seven grounds that could be used for a big event and with temporary facilities capable of holding up to 25,000 spectators – something akin to grounds in the U.K.”
International cricket has been halted in recent months due to the Covid-19 pandemic with a slew of Full Member countries hit-hard by the virus. Malaysia, which has had 8600 cases and 121 deaths, has comparatively been lesser impacted and could emerge as a neutral location if needed.
“Some countries have had financial implications for the worse because of the pandemic and I think Malaysia could be in the space to accommodate these teams,” Vallipuram said. “When the Malaysian government does allow sports to be played then certainly I think we could be a venue to be considered.”
Longer term, Malaysia plans to establish itself as a T20I hub – something like a ‘Sharjah of the East’ in a nod to the UAE city once being a One-Day International (ODI) hot spot.
Malaysia would not merely aim to lure cricket powerhouses – like it famously did for an ODI tri-series involving India, Australia and West Indies in 2006 – but provide a regular destination for Associates with more than 100 countries boasting T20I status.
“I see Malaysia as a hub for T20I cricket to help organize and arrange events – not just for Malaysia but other countries to use as a hub,” Vallipuram said. “Cricket can be played in Malaysia at least 10 months a year so we can position that. Even during the rainy seasons of November and December it’s still possible to play without too many interruptions.
“We have good facilities that can be of use to some of the Associates, who might not have the infrastructure as yet,” he added. “We see this as growing the game and the quality of cricket worldwide.”
If Malaysia strikes gold during the bidding for the 2023-31 cycle, an off-beat cricket locale will have seriously emerged.