Updated: May 6, 2021 7:51:21 am
It was after the COVID-19 virus had infiltrated Planet IPL’s biosecure bubbles that the BCCI decided to call off one of cricket’s grandest money-spinning tournaments that has fuelled local economies, scripted rags-to-riches tales and competed gamely with daily television soaps to become the country’s leading prime-time entertainer. Criticised for being blind to the raging pandemic unfolding beyond the stadiums walls, the BCCI in their official “postponement” announcement spoke about their attempt “to bring in some positivity and cheer” in these “difficult times”. Those who are outraging about the BCCI’s alleged insensitivity may find these words hollow. But the IPL’s curtain call does throw up a question. Will the switched-off stadium floodlights lighten the burden on the country’s flailing health system? Or, will it provide impetus to the nationwide vaccine drive? In fact, the IPL’s abrupt end is just a grim reminder about the vulnerability of even the most secure.
But these are tough times. And beyond the blame games, there are lessons to be learnt from this half-finished IPL. The urgency that the BCCI showed in pulling down the shutters should be appreciated but it now needs to show the same alacrity in bringing a proper closure to this curtailed event. The foreign players who didn’t join the exodus out of the country need to be taken care of now. How the BCCI and the franchise look after the Australian players — most in panic mode because of travel restrictions — will decide the IPL’s global reputation and brand value. The problems of the uncapped Indian cricketers also need to be addressed. An incomplete season complicates payment schedules. IPL contracts are about staggered payments with a large chunk reaching players’ accounts after the culmination of the tournament. A bit of compassion on part of the franchise in times of economic slowdown and unexpected medical expenses could avoid ill-will or unsavoury pay disputes.
With the World T20 scheduled in India later this year, the BCCI should firm up their dos and don’ts based on this IPL experience. Avoiding COVID-19 hotbeds across the country and restricting the travel of teams are pointers. They also need to lean heavily on credible medical inputs before sending out invitations around the world. They need to have Plan B in place. In these unpredictable times, the BCCI doesn’t need to starve, or as their critics want, shut shop for good. But they need to chew on things before they take the next bite.
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