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Saturday, June 19, 2021

Difficult to say how Covid entered IPL bubble, says Sourav Ganguly

BCCI president Sourav Ganguly assures that the IPL overseas players are being taken care of and will reach home safely.

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty | Kolkata |
Updated: May 7, 2021 9:38:15 am
Sourav Ganguly, IPL 2021Sourav Ganguly said that professional hands around the world could not control it (virus penetrating the bubble). (FILE)

The BCCI asserts that organising the Indian Premier League (IPL) in India this year was not a mistake. In an interview with The Indian Express, BCCI president and former India captain Sourav Ganguly spoke about the thought process behind organising it at home, why the Board chose six cities as venues, and that Indian domestic players will be compensated irrespective of the fate of the 2021 IPL season.

Excerpts:

In hindsight, do you think it was a mistake to organise the IPL in India this year?

No. When we decided, the number was not even close to this. We did the England tour successfully.

Was there a discussion to hold it in the UAE?

It was discussed, but the (COVID-19 cases) in India in February was (virtually) nothing. It has just gone through the roof in the last three weeks. Before that it was nothing. We discussed about the UAE but then decided to do it in India.

Is there a window to resume the season?

We will see. It’s too early to say.

If at all it can be resumed, will that be in the UAE or in India?

I don’t know. It’s too early to say.

Was the bubble-breach a case of the bio-security bubble not being fool proof? Or was there somebody who broke the bubble?

I don’t think so. The report we got is that there’s no breach of the bubble. How it happened is very difficult to say. How so many people are getting (infected) in the country is also very difficult to say.

Would hosting the season in one or two cities have been better than a six-city arrangement?

As I said, when we decided all this, there was no (Covid spike) in India. So it’s very easy to say now, but when this tournament was organised, Covid numbers (in India) were nothing. We started with Mumbai and finished there without any case. And Mumbai was very high (number of active Covid cases) then.

Unlike last season, the BCCI didn’t appoint UK-company Restrata to take charge of the bubble. Would it have been good to appoint them this year, given their expertise?

We discussed their name, but they don’t have a big presence in India, that was the problem. So we went with others.

So basically the bubble was BCCI-arranged. Do you have any regret that maybe a professional hand would have been better?

They are all professional hands. Professional hands around the world can’t control it (virus penetrating the bubble). When it was happening in England (second wave of the pandemic), there were cases in the English Premier League. Manchester City, Arsenal players got infected. Matches got rescheduled. Because their season is six months long, they can do it. But our season is tight. Since we have to (release) players to their respective countries, rescheduling was very difficult.

How are you managing a safe passage for foreign players?

They will all be fine. They are all looked after and they will all reach home. The Australians will reach the Maldives tomorrow, finish their quarantine and then reach Australia safely. So I don’t see any issue.

Does the BCCI have any plan to vaccinate the Indian cricketers before they go to England for the World Test Championship (WTC) final?

Now that they have time, they will do it individually since the (state) governments (are) getting the vaccinations done. They all go to their respective homes, so it’s an easier option that way.

The IPL brings a major chunk of revenue for the BCCI. Now that the season has been postponed, will domestic players be compensated since there was no Ranji Trophy either this season?

A: They will be compensated. It has been decided in the AGM only. So at the end of the season, when their payments will go, they will be compensated.

Will a revenue shortage affect the compensation?

No, it won’t.

Is the WTC final is on schedule?

Yes, it is (at Southampton from June 18-22).

So the players will assemble, undergo tests, serve a 10-day quarantine upon reaching England?

Yes, absolutely.

There have been reports about the T20 World Cup being shifted to the UAE…

It’s too early (to say).

This was the first time IMG wasn’t in charge for managing the IPL in India. Did that affect arrangements?

IMG doesn’t look after Covid. Even when it happened in UAE last year, IMG was not responsible for Covid (management). IMG was organising the matches and the event. Covid is (handled) completely by medical infrastructure. It has got nothing to do with IMG.

Was it unfair for the BCCI to cop criticism for continuing with the IPL in the middle of a Covid spike?

That answers your question. The English Premier League (when UK was in lockdown), La Liga, everything was happening around the world.

Anything the BCCI is planning to contribute to Covid relief?

Yes. We did it last year (Rs 51 crore). So this year also we are thinking of doing things.

Was the decision to postpone the IPL unanimous?

Yes, it was.

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