IPL in the times of Corona

The challenges of organising sport in the times of the coronavirus have been made starkly clear by the infection infiltrating even the bio-secure bubble in which cricketers are placed — at least one player, Several players have tested positive. Chennai Super Kings (CSK) suffered a scare on Saturday when a personnel among their contingent tested positive for the dreaded virus ahead of the upcoming Indian Premier League (IPL) starting on April 9. However,  it can be confirmed through reliable sources that none of their players or support staff were affected. Most shockingly,  Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar has also been admitted to a hospital as a precautionary measure after contracting the novel coronavirus last week. Tendulkar, who will turn 48 later this month, was previously quarantining at home after testing positive following mild symptoms.

Apart from proximity on the field and several players making physical contact with the cricket ball while playing, they also share dressing rooms, bus rides and flights. One cricketer getting infected could lead to a wave and cause cancellation of tournaments. The IPL has not been a stranger to Covid - in the previous season of the tournament in the UAE last year, a few players and support staff had tested positive for the virus. The organisers had managed to nip the virus in the bud then and the tournament was not affected, climaxing with an entertaining final in November. Organising 60 matches — involving over 150 players and hundreds of staff members — in 50-odd days during the first wave of the pandemic was a Herculean task. For this year’s IPL, the challenge is bigger as India is experiencing the second wave and the new variants of the virus are more infectious and deadly.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruption to cricket across the world, mirroring its impact across all sports. Across the world and to varying degrees, leagues and competitions have been cancelled or postponed.  The 2023 Cricket World Cup was also rescheduled to take place eight months later than planned, with the tournament moved to October and November 2023. Australia and India retained the rights to host the tournaments, with the ICC announcing on 8 August that India will host the 2021 tournament, and Australia will host the 2022 tournament.  Also on 8 August, the ICC confirmed that the 2021 Women's Cricket World Cup and the tournament's qualifier had each been postponed by one year due to the pandemic.
Covid cases are mounting by the day, and the  BCCI must spare no effort or expense to ensure that the bio-secure bubble for the players and staff is impregnable. The economic imperatives of the IPL are very strong, for the tournament is the cash cow of the Indian cricket board (BCCI) and fills up its coffers; it also provides a livelihood to thousands of staff/workers in the supporting sectors, apart from enriching the players themselves. BCCI must do its utmost to ensure that the players and staff are protected from the virus.

- Prabhakar Purandare

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