The writing was on the wall. A day after World in Sport reported rescheduling of one of the matches due to the Covid-19 scare, the Indian Premier League (IPL) was suspended indefinitely on Tuesday. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the league’s governing council members convened an emergency meeting at which they decided to suspend the tournament with immediate effect.
The announcement came after Sunrisers Hyderabad’s wicketkeeper-batsman Wriddhiman Saha tested positive along with Delhi Capitals’ veteran spinner Amit Mishra. A day before, Chennai Super Kings bowling coach L Balaji along with Kolkata Knight Riders bowlers Sandeep Warrier and Varun Chakravarthy had also returned positive results.
“The Indian Premier League Governing Council (IPL GC) and Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in an emergency meeting has unanimously decided to postpone IPL 2021 season, with immediate effect,” 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 well-being of all the stakeholders in mind,” it added. “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,” the league said in a statement.
IPL chairman Brijesh Patel said it was too early to say when the league, originally scheduled to culminate in a May 30 final in Ahmedabad, could resume. “We are looking for another window,” Patel said. “Right now we can’t say when we can reschedule it.”
The eight-team IPL, with an estimated brand value of $6.8 billion, is the richest Twenty20 league and attracts many of the best players from around the world to cricket-crazy India. As many as 57 foreign players, including 14 Australians, are currently stuck in India along with dozens of support staff.
The suspension now raises questions over the safe passage back home for these foreign players. “The BCCI will do everything in its powers to arrange for the secure and safe passage of all the participants in IPL 2021,” the chairman stated.
The tournament which began on April 9, staged 29 games without spectators, at least once every night, while India struggled to get the second wave of Covid-19 under control before KKR’s Covid-19 cases caused the initial jitters on Monday. The tournament final was planned for May 30. Apart from the 14 Australian players left, after three pullouts a few days ago, there are 10 from New Zealand and 11 Englishmen.
South Africa had 11 players in the league, which also featured nine West Indians, three Afghans and two from Bangladesh. In a letter to the franchises last month, the league assured them they would discuss the foreign players’ travel arrangements with the Indian government.
Australia has banned all arrivals from India until May 15 and England has added India to its travel “red” list. Cricket Australia declined to comment when asked if it had any plans to try and bring its players home.
India and New Zealand are set to play the final of the World Test Championship (WTC) from June 18 and were supposed to fly out to England after the completion of IPL. But now the schedule will be changed.
The IPL’s suspension also casts doubt on this year’s Twenty20 World Cup which is scheduled to take place in India in October-November. The global showpiece tournament could be shifted to the United Arab Emirates if the crisis in India does not ease, a BCCI official said last week.