IPL- KKR camp
Quarantine times: (clockwise) Kolkata Knight Riders' Dinesh Karthik, Rahul Tripathi, Varun Chakravarthy, Andre Russell have started their manadatory seven-day quarantine before entering the team bubble in a Mumbai hotel for IPL 2021. Image Credit: Twitter

Kolkata: Altogether 60 matches spread over six venues across India: Chennai, Mumbai, Bengaluru, New Delhi, Kolkata and Ahmedabad over 51 days from April 9 to May 30.

The challenge before the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is a much tougher one than last year in the UAE, especially at a time when the threat of a second wave of Coronavirus looks a reality in the country. However, taking the cue from their experience last year, the Indian board has tried to cover all bases in a 50-page Standard Operating Procedure (SoP) which has been handed over to the eight franchises and other stakeholders of the richest T20 franchise league in the world.

A total of 12 bubbles will be created in each of the venues once the IPL caravan moves there: eight for the franchise teams and their support staff, two for match officials and match management teams and two for broadcast commentators and it’s crew. The emphasis is on health and safety protocols, though there are no plans for vaccination of any players of officials. ‘‘The vaccination programme against Covid-19 is underway in India and vaccines are currently being administered to the at-risk population viz frontline workers, healthcare professionals, people over the age of 60 years and those between the age of 45-59 years who have co-morbidities like cardiac ailments, diabetes, cancer etc.


‘‘Unless most of the population is vaccinated and immune to the SARS-Covid virus, precautions will need to be taken to contain the spread of Covid-19 in the community,’’ the protocol, a copy of which has been accessed by Gulf News, says.

Back to the world of quarantine

The Kolkata Knight Riders were one of the first teams to start assembling in Mumbai, where they have started the mandatory seven-day quarantine before they could start a preparatory camp. The likes of Dinesh Karthik, Rahul Tripathi or Kamlesh Nagarkoti will be tested thrice in their hotel rooms during this period following which they will enter the bio-bubble. They will be tested on the second, fifth and seventh days of their quarantine.

Members of the Indian and England teams, who are now engaged in the last leg of their series in the ODIs in Pune, will undergo a Bubble-to-Bubble transfer and will not have to undergo a separate quarantine period like the rest.

Follow up testing: All individuals within a bubble will be tested twice a week during the second week and thereafter, every fifth day for the entire duration of IPL 2021 season.

Additional testing: Any number of additional tests may be conducted if required under then prevalent rules in India, e.g. if required by the state governments for individuals crossing state borders or testing of individuals with COVID-19 like symptoms and their close contacts.

If players or staff are required to visit hospitals for scans or treatment during the quarantine period, approvals must be sought from the BCCI Chief Medical Officer. Team member and accompanying staff must travel in separate vehicles and wear a full PPE while visiting the hospital. Only essential staff at the hospital will attend to the team members while wearing full PPE and maintaining social distancing at all times.

Temperature monitoring and Tracking device

All participants in IPL will have to undergo daily temperature monitoring recorded either on the wrist band or on the thermal access control readers installed at specific locations within the hotels and stadiums. Individuals who have not completed temperature checks will not be granted access to the stadium and training facilities. BCCI will also provide a tracking device in the form of a wrist band with bluetooth technology which must be worn by individuals at all times, including within the hotel premises.

The tracking devices should not be worn during training, matches, swimming and in the shower. In case an individual returns a positive RT-PCR test result, the tracking device will help trace those individuals who have been in close contact with the case during the previous 48 hours from the time of collection of the sample which resulted in a positive test. The

tracking device, however, will not be used to track the GPS location of individuals.

A graphic showing how any case of a hospital visit has to find the way back to the Bio Bubble during IPL. Image Credit: BCCI/Gulf News

Accommodation: separate hotels

At all the six venues across India, franchise teams will be put up either in separate hotels or some franchise teams may share a hotel. If sharing, each Bubble area will be clearly demarcated and separate from the other. If the gymnasium and swimming pool is shared, separate time slots will be provided to each franchise team.

Each franchise team will be allotted rooms in a separate wing or floor of the hotel and other hotel guests will not have access to these areas. During the quarantine period, each member must be allotted a single occupancy room. Rooms cannot be shared by team members during the mandatory quarantine period.

During the mandatory quarantine period at the hotel, housekeeping staff is not permitted to enter the guest rooms for servicing. Additional towels, bed linen, water, food, etc. will be placed outside individual rooms by hotel staff, ring the doorbell and leave. Members should open the door and collect the items a minute after the hotel staff has left.

After the quarantine period, guests’ rooms will be serviced when the players and staff are not in the room. Zero contact housekeeping and in-room service protocols will be followed.

Team members must not share the common areas used by other hotel guests who are not in a Bio-Secure Bubble viz. dining areas, bars, toilets, etc. Once the team members enter the Bio-Secure Bubble, team dining areas will be created for the exclusive use by each team.

Old guard: Chennai Super Kings' talismanic captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (left) and Ambati Rayudu at the nets for the upcoming season. Image Credit: Twitter

 Training Sessions

Players and team support staff will only be permitted to participate in a training session or match if they have a normal body temperature (equal to or below 37.2 C/98.9 F), do not have any COVID-19 related symptoms and their latest RT-PCR test result is negative. If anyone has high body temperature (more than 37.3 C/99 F) or symptoms, they would be subject to COVID-19 testing and would have to self-isolate.

If a member develops any initial symptoms (e.g. fever, bouts of coughing, unusual shortness of breath, loss of smell &/or taste, unusual fatigue, diarrhoea, disorientation/drowsiness, headache, red eyes/sticky eyes or any other unusual symptoms) they must intimate the team doctor immediately and remain self-quarantined until help arrives.

Risk factor from cricket balls low

New scientific study of cricket balls as potential vectors of the novel coronavirus showed the risk of transmission to be very low. If the cricket ball goes in the stands or outside the stadium, the Fourth Umpire will provide a replacement from the library of cricket balls. The previous ball, when returned, will be sanitized with alcohol-based wipes and/or UV-C by the 4th umpire and placed in the library.

Saliva, as is the norm, must not be applied to the ball. Players and support staff must ensure hands are sanitised before touching their eyes, nose, face and mouth. Players and coaching staff must have hand sanitisers, or sanitiser wipes, on their person, and available to use during training.

IPL 2020 in UAE: Robin Uthappa unplugged
Robin Uthappa, former Indian players who turned out for Rajasthan Royals in IPL 2020, catches up on a copy of Gulf News during the teams' life in bio bubble in the UAE last year. The veteran batsman will be playing for Chennai Super Kings in the new season. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Time for golf

During the IPL 2020 in the UAE, the franchises had to cope with requests from a number of players or coaches for a round of golf to beat the boredom of their stay in the Bubble - with overseas players like David Warner (Sunrisers Hyderabad) or head coach Ricky Ponting (Delhi Capitals) being known golf addicts.

Taking a cue from their UAE experience, BCCI says in it’s SoP: ‘‘Teams should consider strategies to deal with potential mental health issues of all the participants within the various Bubbles. If outdoor recreational activities are planned for the teams/group of individuals, the respective team managers must write to the BCCI Chief Medical Officer with a detailed proposal of the activity. If arrangements can be made for such activity without compromising the Health and Safety protocols of the Bio-secure Environment, BCCI will provide guidelines on safe conduct of such recreational activities. The protocols around golf course visits are detailed below.

Health & Safety Protocols for golf course visits

* Written approval must be sought from the BCCI Chief Medical Officer at least 24 hours in advance before the planned trip to the golf course.

* The golf course management must share their COVID-19 safety protocols and operating procedures in advance for the BCCI Chief Medical Officer to review.

* Entire golf course or a part of it to be booked for the sole use by the IPL participants on any given day. No other guests to be permitted within these designated areas.

* All IPL 2021 Health and Safety protocols applicable to participants within the Bio Secure Bubbles including social distancing, use of face mask covering nose and mouth and hand sanitization must be followed at all times.

Who are Bubble integrity managers?

• BCCI will appoint up to four security staff with each franchise team who will be the designated Bubble integrity managers.

• They will be part of the respective team Bubbles and travel with the teams for the entire duration of IPL 2021.

• Their job will be to report any Bio-secure Environment protocol breaches by members of the franchise team to the BCCI Chief Medical Officer.

The other staff who will be part of bio-security Bubbles are:

a. Bubble specific vehicle drivers

b. Anti-Corruption Officials

c. Hotel staff servicing the individuals within the Bubbles

d. Butlers

e. Bubble integrity managers

f. Net bowlers