As India braces for an unprecedented 21-day complete lockdown imposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi from midnight on March 24 to curb the outbreak of Covid-19, the future of its biggest sporting carnival and arguably world cricket’s biggest league – The Indian Premier League – looks bleak.
The 13th edition of IPL, which was originally scheduled to begin on March 29 this year, was earlier postponed till April 15 after the Indian government’s decision not to grant visas till the same time period put the foreign players’ participation in jeopardy. But as things stand now, a start after April 15 is also highly unlikely.
“We are not even discussing IPL right now. It will be premature to say anything but hosting the IPL this year looks a bit difficult,” a top franchise official told Hindustan Times.
Even if the nation-wide lockdown is lifted after April 14 and visas are granted to foreign cricketers a day after, it will take around 12-14 days for the grounds to be ready for hosting a tournament as big as IPL.
Due to the already existing lockdowns imposed by the respective state governments from the third week of March, most of the associations had closed operations with only the top officials functioning on a ‘work-form-home basis.
“All IPL related work was stopped in mid-March. Only the construction of VIP boxes was underway when this coronavirus pandemic forced us to go on a work-from-home. We were already told not to hold IPL-related work till April 15,” said a Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) official privy to the development.
Delhi was the first to announce a ban on IPL amid coronavirus outbreak which meant all the IPL-related work at the Arun Jaitely Stadium including the pitch preparation crash landed even before taking flight.
“The IMGR (Delhi Capitals) guys came here last week and they were told about the developments. Even they looked less hopeful of the IPL taking place this year. Generally it takes about two weeks for the pitch and construction work to complete before every IPL that means till the end of April it is highly unlikely,” the official added.
Much like DDCA, other top associations like the Mumbai Cricket Association, Cricket Association Bengal had also implemented work-from-home for all its office bearers from the third week of March. The election of executive committee in the Karnataka State Cricket Association slated to take place on March 21 was also postponed till April 4, giving clear indications that IPL was far from anyone’s minds.
There were reports of holding the IPL later in July-August but BCCI president Sourav Ganguly on Tuesday made it clear that no such discussion regarding changing the already existing FTP had taken place with other cricket boards with regards to IPL.
“Nothing has changed in the last 10 days. So, I don’t have an answer to it. You can’t plan anything. The FTP is scheduled. It’s there and you can’t change the FTP. All around the world, cricket and more so sports has stopped,” Ganguly told PTI.
The BCCI and all its stakeholders are set to incur huge financial losses if the current scenario doesn’t improve anytime soon and ultimately force the cancelation of IPL for the first time since its inception in 2008.
“I am not sure whether you can get insurance money. Because this is a government lockdown. I am not sure whether a government lockdown is covered by insurance or not,” Ganguly added.