It must have been a huge relief for the likes of KL Rahul or Robin Uthappa to put bat to ball after a good five months as Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals were the first two IPL teams to get down to practice on Wednesday evening.
For all the efforts put in by the eight franchises to keep their boys in the lap of luxury, it’s not difficult to assume that the players were dying to have a hit as soon as their six-day quarantine came to an end on Tuesday. What’s more, they have not had a chance to even do a recce of the sprawling hotels as they were holed up in their rooms – communicating between each other from room balconies, keeping themselves busy with freehand exercises and eating from the room service.
The buzz around the ICC Academy complex was hard to miss with the entire area being cordoned off by police and security personnel – a new experience for the regulars here in the times of the new normal for the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s understandable as these players – having undergone the six-day quarantine and three tests successfully – have now entered the ‘bio bubble’ which cannot be breached with any form of proximity to the fans or the media.
The journey into the unknown really begins from here – now that the teams have settled down and looking forward to making up for the lost time with outdoor physical training and time at the nets. Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore (read: Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli, respectively) are up next for practice from Friday, while news from Abu Dhabi is Kolkata Knight Riders are also set to get down to business.
The Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) prepared by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had ordained a six-day quarantine for all teams, with three intermittent tests, while the rules in Abu Dhabi call for a 14-day quarantine for the tourists. However, the KKR management confirmed late on Thursday they have got the necessary clearance to start practice while there was no update from the Mumbai Indians camp.
Meanwhile, sitting in their hotel rooms, the BCCI mandarins and officials of the International Marketing Group (IMG), event managers of IPL, have their hands full – dealing with challenges of finalising the fixtures and other logistical issues. The tournament is barely three weeks away but the fixtures are yet to formally released – though the draft fixtures have been doing their rounds among the fans for nearly a month now.
I have been asked about possible spectators’ entry already a zillion times – and I have no answer to this. The priority before the Indian board is surely to ensure a seamless conduct of the league under these trying circumstances – and no sporting event which has happened after the lockdown has entertained spectators so far.
The Formula One has announced that during their last four races of the 2020 season, including the season finale in Abu Dhabi, will have ‘’a few spectators.’’ There is still a long way to go to see if all the IPL stakeholders take a cue from it, as they have other pressing issues at hand.