Till Thursday, as many as 64 tested positive for the fast-spreading novel coronavirus in India. The Ministry of Health issued an advisory cautioning against mass gatherings due to coronavirus outbreak.
The epidemic, which began in China in late December, has claimed over 3,200 lives in China and infected more than 95,000 people globally. It has also plunged the global sporting calendar into disarray, with a growing list of competitions either pushed back or relocated because of the virus.
Amidst all this, the Indian Premier League, which is the most widely watched sporting event in India, seems unperturbed by the pathogen’s effect and so far is likely to continue despite persisting concerns.
The Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI) is monitoring the development of the coronavirus outbreak in the country but has stated there is no threat to the IPL, which begins later this month. Around 60 foreign players will travel to India from areas where cases of coronavirus have been very few.
“We are keeping a tab on the situation. Before the IPL we have the South Africa series. Everything is on the schedule currently,” IPL governing council chairman Brijesh Patel told Reuters on Thursday.
BCCI president Sourav Ganguly, who had earlier said that the topic was not even discussed in prior meetings stated on Friday that all precautionary measures will be taken so that the players and the spectators don’t get infected with the virus, adding that a medical team is looking at finer details.
There were also suggestions about having the IPL behind closed doors as the matches will be available on television as well as streamed live on digital platforms. However, a senior BCCI official on Monday said that having IPL closed doors is not an option.
On the other hand, perturbed by the fast-spreading novel coronavirus threat, New Zealand Cricket (NZC) in sensitizing its contracted players, including the six who will play in the Indian Premier League (IPL), about preventive measures to deal with the deadly outbreak.
Coronavirus has already started to impact cricket directly with Nepal’s Everest Premier League (EPL), postponed after a government directive to refrain from mass gatherings amid fears about the transmission of COVID-19.
Now consider this: During the IPL, more than 50,000-60,000 will be packed inside an arena, jostling for selfies and autographs which does increase chances of the virus spreading.
“The BCCI is being immature. There is no point in having the IPL with so many people coming around, with a lot of sweat and shouting(increased use of throat), chances are COVOD 19 can affect people,” said Sanjeev Singh Yadav, President of Indian Medical Association (Hyderabad City) told the indianexpress.com.
Dr Yadav is advising caution for those who are planning to throng to the stadiums. Hyderabad has its own IPL team, the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH).
“Two positive cases of coronavirus in Hyderabad and when situations are like this where it can spread from one person to another it is better to avoid crowded places until we come to know that the disease is not spreading,” he added.
On the other hand, Dr RV Asokan, Hon. Secretary-General, Indian Medical Association spoke to the indianexpress.com and said, “I will not say that the IPL should be stopped. It can be held if proper preventive measures are taken.”
“Screening of fans who are arriving at the stadium is one of those methods. Also, public awareness is key. The state of Kerala has also shown us how the isolation of patients and being aware at ground level can help in controlling the spread of the virus. If other cities can follow the way then there is no reason why the IPL cannot be held.”
If the tournament is scrapped, then advertising revenues will take a huge hit. However, Star Sports and BCCI have got everything insured. It is still unclear if any specific insurance cover for cancellation due to coronavirus is in place.
The 13th season of the eight-team IPL begins on March 29 where defending champions Mumbai Indians face Chennai Super Kings.
The national team, however, will take on South Africa for three one-day internationals (ODIs) before that.
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