The UAE is set to host the year's men's T20 World ©Getty Images

This year's men's T20 World Cup appears all but certain to be moved from India to the United Arab Emirates after the International Cricket Council (ICC) Board ordered all planning efforts to proceed on the basis that the UAE will be hosting the event.

Another nation in the Middle East could join it as a venue, the ICC said, and a final decision is due to be made later this month.

India is in the grips of one of the world's most deadly COVID-19 outbreaks and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has in the last seven days moved the Indian Premier League (IPL), its marquee franchise tournament and the sport's most lucrative, to the UAE.

The BCCI asked the ICC for longer before having to make a firm decision on moving the T20 World Cup outside of India, but given it is due to start in October - the same month the IPL finishes - and features twice as many teams as the franchise competition, it always appeared unlikely that India would be able to play host.

This has in effect been confirmed by the ICC Board today, although the BCCI will technically remain hosts regardless of where the tournament is played.

Last year, a planned 2020 edition of the event in Australia was delayed until 2022 because of the global health crisis.

The BCCI and Emirates Cricket Board have close ties, signing a Memorandum of Understanding to boost cricketing links between the countries last September.

Zimbabwe are among the teams poised to benefit from expanded T20 and 50-over World Cups ©Getty Images
Zimbabwe are among the teams poised to benefit from expanded T20 and 50-over World Cups ©Getty Images

Significant changes to the ICC's major men's tournaments were also approved at today's meeting, with the 50-over World Cup expanding to 14 teams from 2027 and the T20 World Cup growing to 20 by 2024.

The latter tournament is set to be played every second year and crucially all 20 teams will enter the event at the same stage, in four five-team groups.

The top in each will advance to a "Super Eights" phase, followed by semi-finals and a final.

Two seven-team groups will begin what is branded as the Cricket World Cup, with the top three advancing to the "Super Six", which is a prelude to semi-finals and a final.

Currently, 10 teams contest the World Cup, while 16 contest the 20-over edition, but with eight getting a bye to the "Super 10" the initial group stage is in effect a qualifier.

The ICC Board also decided that an eight-team Champions Trophy - another one-day international tournament - will be reintroduced, starting from 2025, and that World Test Championship Finals will be hosted in 2025, 2027, 2029 and 2031.