The IPL cricket tournament has finally been suspended indefinitely. After a slew of positive cases yesterday and today shattered the supposition that the IPL’s bio bubble was impregnable, the BCCI was forced to concede defeat and put a halt to the proceedings.
It is also learnt that the BCCI has not ruled out the option of rescheduling the tournament. There are conflicting reports of when that could happen. It may be recalled that siasat.com, in a scathing report on May 4 had called upon the BCCI to end the tournament at once.
In the interests of safety against the dreaded COVID virus, it would be better if the BCCI decides to call off the tournament for good. If one season of the IPL is left unfinished, it may be a setback on the financial front for the concerned parties but human lives will remain safe. The BCCI should choose the safer and wiser option of ending the tournament right now. Only if and when the threat dissipates completely, resumption of the tournament can be considered.
However, all said and done, there is nothing to gloat over for the pessimists who had predicted that the tournament will come to a sticky end. Instead it is a sad development for Indian sport and for an event which could have been better planned.
For one thing it should never have been held in India. The UAE could have been a better option. It was done last year and this year the same procedure could have been followed. Australian cricketer Adam Zampa, one of the players who had quit the tournament, had stated that the UAE was a better and safer venue. In hindsight it looks like everything that he had said was right. Once the tournament got underway, it became next to impossible to change the venue overnight and shift the matches to the UAE.
In addition to the two players and three non-playing staff who tested positive yesterday, the names of Wriddhiman Saha of Sunrisers Hyderabad and Amit Mishra of Delhi Capitals were added to the list of positives today (Tuesday).
This morning the IPL Governing Council issued a statement that read: “The IPL GC and BCCI in an emergency meeting, has unanimously decided to postpone the IPL 2021 season with immediate effect. These are difficult times, especially in India. While we have tried to bring in some positivity and cheer, it is now imperative that the tournament is suspended and everyone goes back to their families and loved ones during these trying times.”
Now it remains to be seen how the overseas players will be sent back home. Particularly the Australian players and the BCCI will have to sit down and chalk out a plan to see to it that all participating players reach their homes safely because Australia has banned all flights from India till May 15.
The Australian contingent including players and support staff such as former Aussie captain Ricky Ponting and commentators Lisa Sthalekar and Mathew Hayden are now waiting anxiously to depart from India and reach home safe and sound. It is likely that they will have to detour to reach home. “The BCCI will do everything in its power to arrange for the safe passage of all players,” the official statement has mentioned.
Former India captain Mohammed Azharuddin welcomed the move to suspend the tournament. In a tweet he mentioned : “In view of the Covid crisis in India and the players testing positive, the postponement of the IPL with immediate effect is the correct course of action taken by the BCCI and the IPL Governing Council. Hope to see the IPL back soon in a better and safer environment,”
Former India ODI cricketer Noel David who represented India in 1997 and was compared to Jonty Rhodes for his excellent fielding ability by Sunil Gavaskar, also felt that the move to suspend the IPL was the right one under the existing circumstances.
Speaking to siasat.com he said: “First of all let me say it is a good move and I welcome it. The objective now is to prevent further spread of the virus and keep the players safe. So I think it is a great decision. No doubt it will mean that there will be a loss for the BCCI but it cannot be avoided,” said Noel.
“Furthermore the younger players will be disappointed that their chance to play on the big stage has been suddenly cut short. Their opportunity to gain experience has been reduced. But we must look at the overall picture. The suspension of the tournament with immediate effect was the only way out for the BCCI. The lives of players and support staff matter more than all the financial losses that may be incurred,” said Noel.
On Twitter, there was a heartwarming tweet by Candice Warner, wife of Sunrisers captain David Warner. She highlighted the plea of her three little daughters. “Please Daddy, come home straight away. We love you and miss you,” the children wrote on a sheet of paper on which they had made a drawing of Daddy, Mummy and three kids.
So it is clear that the families of the overseas cricketers are anxiously waiting to see the players return home. Cricket lovers must be praying that all goes smoothly for the stars and that they reach home without any mishaps.
Abhijit Sen Gupta is a seasoned journalist who writes on Sports and various other subjects.