With sport across the globe virtually brought to a halt because of the coronavirus epidemic, and even this summer’s Olympics finally has now been postponed, the spotlight will soon fall on the BCCI, with questions raised as to why they have not made a similar decision with regard to this year’s IPL.
Originally scheduled to start on March 29th, it was pushed back to April 15th, a date that nobody in their right minds expects to see a ball bowled in anger.
Meanwhile, the BCCI and the franchise owners continue to discuss a range of options, such a playing a truncated version of the tournament, staging matches behind closed doors, or limited matches to two or three venues.
However, it is time for all concerned to stop acting like the proverbial ostrich and get their heads out of the sand and see what is happening in the real world.
Given the Covid-19 pandemic there is no way that this year’s IPL can be held within the next few months, and the sooner that this is acknowledged, the better for all concerned. Sports Minister Kiren Rijuju made this point clear on Monday, emphasising that it was not a sporting matter but one that concerned the safety of all citizens.
Put simply, where countries across the globe are enforcing measures on social distancing and restricting mass gatherings to two or three people, what sense does it make to stage an event which causes thousands of people to congregate together every two or three days. And even if matches are held behind closed doors, players and match officials will still be in close proximity to each other, putting themselves and their families at risk.
This is not even taking into account that none of the 60 or so contracted foreign players will be able to take part, given the severe travel, restrictions imposed not only in their own countries but also on foreigners entering India.
The reluctance of the BCCI and the various stakeholders to bow to the inevitable may be purely economic, given the vast sums, the IPL contributes to the Indian economy every year. But all that pales into insignificance compared to the major cost to the country in case the virus takes a firm hold there, and the immense strain on the health service.
The IPL just cannot go ahead in these circumstances.