New Zealand has officially become a coronavirus free country. The South-Pacific nation has a population of 4.8 million and a total of 1,500 people were infected to COVID-19 virus. All of them have recovered, and the country has seen no new case recently. New Zealand is one of the major Test-playing nations in cricket, and the country is known for its rich cricket culture apart from rugby. With New Zealand becoming coronavirus free, it has given rise to hopes of becoming a neutral venue for many cricket tournaments including the bilateral series. However, many countries won't be looking forward to organising their tournaments in the country.  How New Zealand Defeated COVID-19: Timeline of The Kiwi Battle to Eliminate Coronavirus and Role Played by Jacinda Ardern.

Take India for example, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) recently said that they are open to hosting Indian Premier League 2020 (IPL 2020) outside the country. New Zealand would have been the perfect venue given the coronavirus free environment and the cricket-loving public. However, it is time zone which will hinder BCCI hosting the IPL 2020 there.

New Zealand is six hours and 30 minutes (6:30) ahead of Indian Standard Time (IST). So, matching the Indian prime time will be a concern. For example, if a match is scheduled at 7:00 pm as per IST, it has to start at 01:30 am as per New Zealand time. Hosting IPL may not be realistically possible for New Zealand, but it can certainly turn up as a host for some bilateral series. Saliva Ban in Cricket to COVID Substitutes, ICC Confirms Interim Changes in Playing Conditions Amid Coronavirus Crisis.

New Zealand Cricket Players' Association chief executive, Heat Mills has indicated that New Zealand is willing to act as a neutral venue. "Anything we could do down here to help would be a good thing for the game globally. I could see New Zealand operating as a neutral venue; that's a definite possibility. I know New Zealand cricket have been in contact with the ECB, and others, about the potential for that to happen this summer," Mills told the I Newspaper.

"Nothing has been confirmed but I know there would be a willingness, certainly on the part of New Zealand, to do what it could," he added.

Meanwhile, ICC can think about hosting the T20 World Cup 2020 in New Zealand. If it is planning to go ahead with the tournament this year. As of now, Australia is scheduled to host the tournament in October-November. Given that there is not much drastic time difference between the two countries, Cricket Australia (CA) can think about hosting the tournament in New Zealand with ICC's approval. Apart from it, New Zealand can also host other bilateral series' but hosting IPL 2020 looks distant.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Jun 09, 2020 08:23 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website