Dubai: The Indian Premier League (IPL), the richest Twenty20 league, has been postponed until April 15 following mounting pressure from the Indian government to even cancel the event to contain the spread of coronavirus in the country.
The 13th edition of the IPL was to commence from March 29. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president Sourav Ganguly on Thursday had remarked that the IPL will be held on schedule with no spectators and even in the absence of foreign players. Ganguly’s stance had sparked a huge debate as to whether BCCI is ignoring the safety of the cricketers who will have to travel to different centres and also of fans who may congregate in public places to watch the matches on television.
A few hours before BCCI announced the postponement, the Delhi government declared that IPL will not be allowed to be held in Delhi. Many more states were about to inform the BCCI that their states will not be willing to stage the IPL matches.
Speaking to Gulf News from Delhi, Surinder Khanna, the Indian Cricketers Association (ICA) representative to the IPL Governing Council, said: “The IPL council has taken the decision considering the safety of the public as well the cricketers following the government advisory. It is important to monitor whether the virus is spreading to more people. When the government has instructed even closing of cinema theatres it was important that IPL where over 40,000 people would assemble to watch the matches, would have been risky. As cricketers have huge fan following and fans do mob cricketers it is a very good decision by the council to postpone the event.”
The Indian government had also announced that all visas to travel to India will stand suspended from March 13 to April 15. West Indies legendary all-rounder Dwayne Bravo, who was to fly into Dubai to give away the prizes in the ongoing 10PL tennis ball tournament in Sharjah and then proceed for the IPL, has now called off his trip to India.
The BCCI will be meeting the IPL team owners on Saturday before the start of the IPL Governing Council meeting to find a way to stage the 13th edition without being cancelled. It is understood that BCCI had asked franchise owners whether the IPL can be held without foreign players and all of them refused it. They felt that IPL without foreign players will have no following or create the same impact like in the previous years.
The BCCI’s official press release stated: “The BCCI is concerned and sensitive about all its stakeholders, and public health in general, and it is taking all necessary steps to ensure that, all people related to IPL including fans have a safe cricketing experience. The BCCI will work closely with the Government of India along with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and all other relevant Central and State Government departments in this regard.”
As the IPL is played in a window provided by the International Cricket Council, discussions have already begun to reduce the number of IPL matches if commenced from April 15 . It is also likely that the number of venues will be cut short to prevent players from having to travel extensively and even stage double headers on all days.