The wheel of fortune has turned a full circle. About two months ago the BCCI and the IPL Governing Council had disdainfully thrown away Hyderabad’s plea to be allotted IPL matches. Hyderabad was not considered good enough. The BCCI and the Council had paid no heed to the desire of fans in Hyderabad and the assertions of officials that the city would be a good venue and would be able to successfully hold IPL matches.
But now the same august bodies have come begging to Hyderabad’s door and has asked to be rescued. Why? Because the dreaded Corona virus is wrecking havoc and is threatening to disrupt the matches that are scheduled to be held in Mumbai and other places. Hyderabad is now being called upon to stand by as a venue because without help, the whole show may collapse.
Now, under duress, the IPL bosses have suddenly woken up to the fact that Hyderabad can play the role of saviour. The fact that the Hyderabad Cricket Association has taken up the task and is making plans on a war footing goes to show the culture of Hyderabad and its sporting spirit. This time the boot was on the other foot and Hyderabad could have spurned the last minute offer.
Instead Hyderabad has set aside petty ego and risen to the occasion. “We are keeping ourselves ready to host matches from a later stage,” said Mr. John Manoj, Vice President of the Hyderabad Cricket Association in a brief chat with Siasat.
Detailed planning will be needed
“The formalities and logistics will make it a matter of detailed preparation before any of the matches can be organized. The bio bubble has to be put in place. That means sanitizing the ground, the dressing rooms, the hotel where the teams will stay, and everything else that you can think of. Nothing should be missed out. So you can imagine what a huge task that will be,” said the HCA official.
“So I don’t envisage a situation wherein we will be asked to host matches immediately. We have to be given time to make all the preparations. That we are doing now. We are making plans and getting ready. I expect that if the need arises, we may be asked to hold matches perhaps midway through the tournament. Or perhaps a little later. It all depends upon the circumstances,” said John Manoj. “But we will be ready. We will cover all eventualities and prove that Hyderabad is as good if not better than other venues,” he added.
If the second wave of the virus spreads and becomes uncontrollable then the IPL tournament itself may have to be cancelled. Although the organisers are putting up a brave face there is no denying the fact that the threat is very potent and its ability to cause calamity is immense.
The IPL Governing Council Chairman Brijesh Patel had earlier clarified that because of the problems in controlling the spread of the virus, spectators will not be allowed inside the stadiums.
The effect of the virus on the IPL tournament is being felt with greater intensity after Axar Patel the all rounder of Delhi Capitals team tested positive for Corona virus. The team management disclosed that the player had checked into the team hotel on March 28 with a negative report but his second Corona test turned out to be positive. He has been put in isolation at a designated medical care facility.
As per the standard operating procedure of the BCCI, any player who tests positive has to be kept under isolation for ten days from the first day of symptoms or the date of sample collection whichever is earlier. So any more positive cases among the players will seriously jeopardize the tournament itself.
Even the preparations at the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai have received a huge set back. This happened when ten ground staff at the venue tested positive for Corona. At first eight of the ground staff had tested positive till Friday but as per Saturday’s news, ten persons have now been declared Corona positive. Which effectively rules out a little more than half the total strength of 19 ground staff at the stadium.
Mumbai is in the grip of an intense second wave of the pandemic and the state government is considering harsh measures to control the spread of the second wave. Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has not ruled out a lockdown as per latest reports. He has warned that the state’s health infrastructure may be overwhelmed if the trend continues.
The IPL tournament is scheduled to kick off in Chennai on April 9. The matches are being planned across six sanitized centres namely Chennai, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Ahmedabad. Now Hyderabad is ready to host if needed. No doubt cricket fans from all over India are keeping their fingers crossed and praying hard that the event goes off without any more hitches and glitches.
Abhijit Sen Gupta is a seasoned journalist who writes on Sports and various other subjects.