While the Indian cricket board have their hands full with the ‘ifs and buts’ over the Indian Premier League (IPL) coming in the UAE between September and November, a draft copy of the overview of the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) handed to the franchises seems to have evoked quite a few reservations from the franchises.
There are a rash of demands for modifications or tweaking in the SOP, of which some are of the cricketing kind but the more sensitives ones are that about the presence of family and partners. The issue of WAGs had been a talking point no sooner it was evident that the teams - full of the galaxy of superstars of world cricket - will be descending here in the latter part of this month and would be required to stay put in the bio-secure bubble for nearly three months!
It’s a huge ask from a band of approximately more than 175 cricketers - a far cry from the 30-odd that the English & Wales Cricket Board had to manage to deliver the England versus West Indies Test series or the ongoing one against Pakistan. What’s more, both these Test series have been tightly scheduled into three weeks each and only in two specific venues in England (Old Trafford and the Ageas Bowl) where hotels are integrated inside the venues - a fact which renders maintenance of the bio-bubble for practice sessions and matches relatively easier.
The scenario in the IPL will be a lot more demanding - even though the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has tried to cover all the bases in the draft that has reached the team owners. ‘‘Families wishing to accompany players and team support staff will have to follow the same Bio-secure Environment protocols (as the players)....Any family member who breaches the Bio-Secure protocols will have to quarantine for 7 days and return two negative PCR tests on Day 6 and 7, to be allowed to re-enter the Bio-Secure Environment,’’ the draft says.
An unusual situation this for some of the star wives - like a Anushka Sharma, Sakshi Singh Dhoni or Candice Warner (David Warner’s wife) who have, over the years, been as much familiar faces in the IPL entourage as the players themselves.
Breach of any Bio-Secure Environment protocols by players and team support staff will be punishable under the IPL Code of Conduct Rules
Going by media reports, the franchises have asked some allowances in the guidelines in view of the unweildy nature of the schedule - like permission to attend team and family dinners. Teams have also sought clarity on whether players will be allowed to fulfill their commercial commitments - a done thing every season where the players show up in meet-and-greets or launch sessions of their sponsors.
The league, on the face of it, have tried to mean business by mentioning it in their plan: ‘‘Breach of any Bio-Secure Environment protocols by players and team support staff will be punishable under the IPL Code of Conduct Rules.’’
Much as noble the intentions are, who will be accountable if there is any such violation? The disciplinary measures handed out to Jofra Archer for ‘driving home’ for a while instead of straight to Manchester for the second Test is fresh in everybody’s memory but it’s difficult to see such a parallel playing out in the IPL.
The onus should then lie with team owners and players to remember that there can be no half-measures in this - and they should be all in it to make this hugely demanding tournament run its course without a hitch!