Mumbai: The 14th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) was suspended on Tuesday by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) amid the rise in COVID-19 cases among players and support staff of different franchises.
An official statement read, “The BCCI does not want to compromise on the safety of the players, support staff and the other participants involved in organising the IPL. This decision was taken keeping the safety, health and wellbeing of all the stakeholders in mind. These are difficult times, especially in India and while we have tried to bring in some positivity and cheer, however, it is imperative that the tournament is now suspended and everyone goes back to their families and loved ones in these trying times.”
After 29 matches and 24 days, half-way through the tournament, the Indian cricket board was left with no other choice following six positive cases of the infection across four different franchises inside the IPL's bio-bubbles that came to light in span of two days.
Though the BCCI has left a door open for alternate dates by not officially cancelling the league, it seems unlikely that the India’s biggest sporting festival will be able to resume this year even as India fights a humanitarian crisis of COVID-19. There is talk of finishing the IPL before or after the ICC T20 World Cup, scheduled to be hosted by India in October-November. But the World Cup itself may have to be moved to the UAE, as per BCCI's emergency plans if it becomes dreadful to hold the tournament in the country.
UNAFFECTED IPL TEAMS START LEAVING
While, after the tournament was postponed on Tuesday, four teams not affected by the positive cases in their camps have been given nod to move out and have already started leaving their respective bio-bubbles after the cash-rich league was suspended.
While the Rajasthan Royals (RR) players and staff members have already started leaving the bio-bubble in Delhi, the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) will move out of their bio-bubble in Ahmedabad on Wednesday. Punjab Kings (PBKS) side too will start leaving their bio-bubble from Wednesday and day after. According to some reports, Punjab has made elaborate arrangements, booking different chartered flights for different sectors.
"Yes, we will start leaving from tomorrow and the players and staff will most probably leave in different chartered flights," an official from a franchise told IANS.
RR, PBKS, RCB and Mumbai Indians have not been affected by any positive case in their camp so far. Chennai Super Kings (CSK), Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), Delhi Capitals (DC) and SunRisers Hyderabad (SRH) have, however, been affected by positive cases and may undergo isolation.
However, an official from BCCI said that the players and staff who haven't tested positive even in the affected teams have been permitted to leave the bio-bubble. The affected players have to remain in isolation and undergo tests. The tests need to result negative before they are permitted to move out. There is still a decision to be made on foreign players in the clubs.
While the South Africans have been permitted to return home by their government, discussions are still on over how and where to send the cricketers from Australia.
The Aussies can't return home. They will probably go to a third country and serve their quarantine there. There is a possibility they will all be sent to the same country like Maldives they board the flight. The Indian board will decide on the matter further and chalk out their plans.
According to sources, the players can be held back and sent out together to their respective nations since the Indian board has taken the responsibility to send them home safely. The Indian cricket board has guaranteed the foreign players saying, "It will do everything in its powers to arrange for the secure and safe passage of all the participants."
Meanwhile, cricket fans on Tuesday took to Twitter as they reacted to the suspension of IPL 2021 and many expressed disappointment.
WILL IPL RETURN IN SEPTEMBER
The unavoidable question from Monday is: when will the board finish the IPL? Now, India will host New Zealand before the T20 World Cup in November. So September might be a possible window and might give the BCCI adequate time to chalk out plans such as logistics, venues and more.