Mumbai Indians players
Mumbai Indians players celebrate the victory against Chennai Super Kings in IPL 2021. Image Credit: Sportzpics

The Indian Premier League 2021 has been postponed indefinitely. A prudent decision indeed. That begs the question, when will it resume? Not soon. Simply because the international cricket calendar is packed, and there aren’t too many vacant slots.

There are two short windows for Indian cricketers: one in July and the the other in September. But given the high rate of COVID-19 infections in India, the chances of holding it in the country are very slim. And it would be insensitive and immoral to organise a cricket extravaganza in the middle of a raging pandemic.

The harsh lessons of the IPL Season 14 should not be forgotten. It should help improve the safety of biobubbles when the games resume. A biobubble is only as good as its weakest link. And weak links, there were too many. That’s what the infection trail tells us.

Although the Indian cricket board hasn’t revealed and won’t reveal the chinks, it’s speculated that air travel was one area of concern. Another was the hotels, especially the areas where food was served. The ground staff too didn’t seem part of the bubbles, despite vigorous denials by a state association official. A transport personnel (bus cleaner) was laid low by COVID-19, and his exposure tells us something about the bubble safety. What about the doctors or technicians involved in the scans of Varun Chakravarthy’s injury?

The weak spots in the biobubbles

None of these has been confirmed, yet they are all possibilities. They tell us that biobubbles in India can be vulnerable, particularly when air travel and multiple venues are involved. And that jeopardises the health of cricketers. They are people too. Humans who have families. So, if their safety can’t be guaranteed, IPL should not resume in India.

Biobubbles work. That’s what the Test series in several countries have shown us. But that’s when the number of venues is limited, and matches held when the spread of the virus was under control.

So, how can the Indian cricket board (Board for Control of Cricket in India) resume IPL 2021? Given the small window and the logistics involved, the UAE is the most logical choice. First and foremost, IPL Season 13 was run in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah without a hitch. And the COVID-19 situation in the UAE is under control, and several high profile events have already been hosted successfully.

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The European Tour (two golf competitions), the Dubai World Cup horse racing, the UAE Tour cycling, Ironman, Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix, ATP and WTA tennis events in Dubai and Abu Dhabi are some of the international events UAE hosted in the time of coronavirus. And players and international sports organisations were full of praise for the safety protocols.

So, it would only be wise to choose the UAE as the venue to complete IPL Season 14. And that would also eliminate a monstrous incongruity in India: the sight of cricket stadiums bathed in floodlights for IPL matches when funeral pyres are burning all over India.

An IPL at a time when India is reeling from coronavirus infections is inappropriate. But organising it in the UAE would buttess the criticism. And that’s the only way to complete the IPL. That’s if the BCCI is keen on finding the winner.