Chennai: Indian cricketer Harbhajan Singh during the practice session, at MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai, Thursday, March 12, 2020.  The spread of coronavirus has cast a shadow with Sports Ministry planning to hold IPL matches in closed doors as foreign players were ruled out of the game till April 15 following government-imposed travel restrictions. (PTI Photo)(PTI12-03-2020_000232B)
Harbhajan Singh during a practice session for Chennai Super Kings in Chennai early this year. The squads are supposed to be flying into the UAE for acclimatisation camps ahead of the league. Image Credit: PTI

Dubai: As the crunch time approaches for the IPL bandwagon to fly out to the UAE towards the latter half of August, Tata Medical and Diagnostics, the medical arm of the TATA Group has emerged as the key player to provide the bio-bubble cover to all stakeholders in the money-spinning league.

Sources in the know revealed that TATA Medical officials gave a presentation to the board on “a holistic, state-of the-art’’ Covid safety services solution and enable the league go through without a hitch from September 19 to November 10. Their inputs had been taken into consideration for a draft Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) which has been handed to the eight franchises for their feedback.

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Meanwhile, Restrata, a UK-headquartered company which had been hired by the English & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) for the series against the West Indies and Pakistan has submitted a detailed presentation to the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) and the three venues: Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi. The company, which has a proven track record on providing various solution platforms for ‘‘safe return’’ of sport, had also served as security advisors to 2012 Olympics.

Speaking to Gulf News from India, Brijesh Patel, the IPL chairman confirmed the presentation by the TATA Group and said a decision will be taken by the end of the week.

Patel also clarified they were looking for ‘Plan B’ for the title-sponsors of the 13th edition of the league as VIVO, the Chinese mobile phone manufacturers and the IPL have decided to part ways for this season. The Chinese company had expressed their desire to step aside this year in view of the anti-China sentiment currently prevailing in India following the stand-off in Galwan last year.

The BCCI, meanwhile, is holding onto plans for the recce in the UAE as the clearance from the Home Ministry of India is yet to come despite the verbal assurance. ‘‘We are waiting for the clearance which should come soon,’’ Patel said.

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Sakshi Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni's wife, in the galleries during a previous edition of the IPL. The BCCI is expected to leave the onus of players travelling with their families and partners to the franchises this time. Image Credit: PTI file

Meanwhile, the BCCI's draft SOP to the franchises on Wednesday mandate that Indian players and support staff will have to return negative for COVID-19 at least five times before they start training in the UAE and subsequently will be tested every fifth day during the league.

The SOP states that all Indian players and support staff will have to undergo two COVID-19 RT-PCR tests, 24 hours apart, a week before joining the 14-day quarantine period with their respective teams in India.

If any individual tests positive, he will go into a 14-day quarantine. After the quarantine, he will be required to undergo two more COVID-19 RT-PCR tests within a space of 24 hours and if they come negative, that person will be cleared to fly to UAE for the IPL beginning November 19.

Breach of any Bio-Secure Environment protocols by players and team support staff will be punishable under the IPL Code of Conduct Rules, says the SOP. 

Teams to decide on families

The BCCI has left it to the teams to decide on the travel of partners and families of the players but they too will have to follow strict bio-secure protocols if they wish to accompany the cricketers and support staff.

The families will not be permitted to meet anyone outside the bio-bubble and will have to practice social distancing while interacting with other families and the players, that too with a facemask on.

Families will also not be permitted to travel on the same vehicle carrying players and team support staff to the venues for training and matches. Anyone of them who breaches the Bio-Secure protocols will have to quarantine for seven days and return two negative PCR tests on Day 6 and 7, to be allowed to re-enter the Bio-Secure Environment.