Sourav Ganguly
Sourav Ganguly, the BCCI President, has a tough call to make on the IPL on Saturday. Image Credit: ANI

Dubai: It will be quite a tough call for Sourav Ganguly, the President of Indian cricket board and Brijesh Patel, an Indian star of the ‘70s and chairman of Indian Premier League (IPL) when they take a final decision on the fate of IPL 2020 season in their governing council meeting in Mumbai on Saturday.

With the Coronavirus scare being declared a pandemic, the federal government has advised the Board of Control for Cricket India (BCCI) that hosting all the matches behind closed doors is the only option if they want to go ahead with the tournament on schedule from March 29. The directive of hosting any international fixture under the current climate became functional from the one-day series between India and South Africa, as the two remaining ODIs in Lucknow and Kolkata will now be held without fans.

The BCCI, in their own wisdom, had kept in touch with the Ministry of Health and had on Wednesday evening issued elobrate guidelines to be followed during the India-South Africa series - a template which would have been in place for the IPL as well. However, a senior government bureaucrat said on Wednesday that if a sports event is unavoidable and has to be organised, it should be done without any public gathering.

“All national federations, including the BCCI, have been told to adhere to the guidelines and advisory issued by the ministry of health and public welfare. We have also told them to avoid any public gathering and if a sporting event has to be organised, it should be done without gathering of people,” said Union Sports Secretary Radhey Shyam Julaniya.


“It is the state government who has to manage the crowd and who have the power under the epidemic diseases act (Epidemic Act of 1897). If it is unavoidable and it has to be organised, then they should do it without collecting the crowd,” the official said.

If hosting the IPL behind closed doors was an idea that the BCCI could have still have reconciled with, the non-availability of foreign players at least till April 15 (the government has cancelled travel visas granted to all foreigners till the deadline) has proved to be a major concern for the BCCI as well as the franchises. Each of the eight franchises have, on an average, seven to eight foreign recruits though four overseas players are allowed to be a part of the playing XI on a match day.

While the franchise members contacted by Gulf News said it’s ‘‘too sensitive” an issue to comment, an IANS reported quoted a franchise official that while they ready to reconcile with the idea of playing to empty galleries, they wanted the BCCI to appeal the government to reconsider their decision of the travel ban on foreign professionals.

“See, the Proteas are already in the country, so as per the directive, they can easily stay back. Also, if you see, the Englishmen are already in Sri Lanka and the Kiwis are playing the Aussies in Australia, so they are anyway on the road. We just need the BCCI to sit down with the governmental departments and get us the clearance so that we can have the IPL with foreign players. The whole tournament will lose its charm if the foreign players are not there. It is the biggest cricket carnival in the world for a reason,” the official said.