Updated: March 14, 2020 8:26:27 am
On Thursday, the Uttar Pradesh government had advised the BCCI not to go ahead with the second ODI at Lucknow that was scheduled on Sunday. It followed a patient being tested positive for COVID-19 in the state capital.
The BCCI, however, had decided to see out the series – the Lucknow game and the third ODI at Eden Gardens on March 18 – albeit holding the matches behind closed doors. Eventually, the board had to give in, as the cancellation of the series was announced today. The cricket fraternity was similarly bullish on hosting the IPL behind closed doors even after the World Health Organisation (WHO) had declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had advised the BCCI not to hold the IPL “at this time”. Finally, it dawned on them that this is not the right time for any cricket after the Coronavirus claimed its first victim in India on Wednesday and total case count in the country rose to 81.
With regards to the cancellation of the ODI series, the BCCI release stated: “The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), along with Cricket South Africa (CSA), on Friday announced to reschedule the ongoing ODI series in view of the Novel Corona Virus (COVID-19) outbreak.
“Cricket South Africa will visit India at a later date to play 3 One-day Internationals. The BCCI-CSA will jointly work out the revised schedule.”
— BCCI (@BCCI) March 13, 2020
As for the suspension of the IPL that was to commence on March 29, the cricket board release said: “The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has decided to suspend IPL 2020 till 15th April 2020, as a precautionary measure against the ongoing Novel Corona Virus (COVID-19) situation.
“The BCCI is concerned and sensitive about all its stakeholders, and public health in general, and it is taking all necessary steps to ensure that, all people related to IPL including fans have a safe cricketing experience. “The BCCI will work closely with the Government of India along with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and all other relevant Central and State Government departments in this regard.”
That the BCCI didn’t even wait for the IPL governing council meeting on Saturday to announce the postponement attested the urgency with which the cricket authorities had to act.
A complete cancellation of the IPL will see the BCCI suffer a revenue loss of over Rs 2,000 crore – broadcast and sponsorship revenue included – and the cricket board, along with all IPL stakeholders will leave no stone unturned to hold the tournament post April 15, a mad scramble of fixtures notwithstanding. Separating eight teams into two groups of four teams each, more double headers – the current schedule has only six afternoon games – and same time fixtures at different venues have been considered as options, as the IPL has a limited window. Also, with the host broadcaster, Star, having multiple channels, it wouldn’t be a problem to telecast all the matches live.
According to a franchise official, postponement was the only option at the moment. “Even behind closed doors, if any member of a team tests positive for coronavirus, the entire squad will have to be quarantined for 14 days. So it was well-nigh impossible to start the tournament on schedule,” he told The Indian Express.
The government’s decision to suspend all existing visas – except Diplomatic, UN/ International organisations, Officials, Project and Employment – until April 15 was another factor that forced the BCCI’s hand. Foreign players and coaches and support staff in the IPL come here on Business visas, which do not fall under the exempted categories. As a franchise official quipped: “Without foreign players, the IPL would become a glorified Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.” Both the BCCI and franchises were keen on the participation of overseas players, a reason why the tournament has been suspended till April 15.
Australia fast bowler Kane Richardson had been quarantined before being cleared of coronavirus. He is now free to rejoin the ODI squad for the New Zealand series. The three-match ODI series will go ahead, although games will be played behind closed doors.
Coming back to the IPL, a scheduled start appeared unlikely when the Maharashtra government had banned ticket sales of the IPL matches a couple of days ago.
The Karnataka government, too, sought advice from the Government of India about whether the IPL matches should be held in Bangalore. Then, a Union Sports Ministry advisory debarred public gathering at “any sporting event”. And today, the Delhi government prohibited “all sports gathering (including IPL)/conferences/seminars beyond 200 people” in the national capital. The BCCI had to suspend the IPL.
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