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Indian Premier League 2021

IPL 2021 to stay in Mumbai. Will the gamble backfire?

While the bio-bubble is sacrosanct, Mumbai city poses a huge risk to the players.

IPL 2021 to stay in Mumbai. Will the gamble backfire?

Axar Patel testing positive shows the frailties of a bio-bubble (Source: BCCI)


Rahul Kargal

Published: 6 April 2021 8:22 AM GMT

Two more members of the ground staff and a plumber at the Wankhede Stadium have tested positive for COVID-19, a day after the facility was cleared to host its share of 10 IPL matches.

Mumbai is reeling under the second-wave onslaught of COVID.

57,074 new Covid-19 cases and 222 deaths were reported in Maharashtra on Sunday and this was followed by another 11,163 new COVID cases and 25 more fatalities in Mumbai city on Monday.

And sure enough, new restrictions were levied by the state government. This included a night curfew (8pm to 7am) coupled with a weekend lockdown.

Also, section 144 is now in place across the city.

With these measures now well and truly in place through April 30, the ten IPL matches scheduled to be played at Mumbai were under the cloud.

Maharashtra government gives the go-ahead

On Monday, however, the Maharashtra government cleared the decks for the event in Mumbai despite the weekend lockdown provisions and night curfew in the city.

The government allowed teams to practice and travel from their respective hotels to the stadium after 8pm, when the night curfew would be on to curb the pandemic.

On Tuesday, Maharashtra reported over 47,000 COVID-19 cases of which Mumbai accounted for more than 9000.

A gamble for COVID-ravaged Mumbai to host the IPL?

"Three at the stadium have tested positive, two are groundsmen," a Mumbai Cricket Association source told PTI.

Earlier last Saturday, 10 ground-staff members of the stadium had tested positive. While most of them have since recovered, these occurrences and the risks that ground staff pose owing to their close proximity to players are significant hazards.

With the city ravaged by COVID, just how watertight is the bio-buddle that envelops the operations of each of the franchises?

Under strict guidelines from BCCI, 12-bubbles are currently in place – one for each of the franchises, two for broadcast commentators and crew and two more for match official and match management teams.

That said, as teams move in and out of hotel rooms to practice venues and eventually the stadium on match days, the risks are but obvious and ominous.

While the players are housed in seemingly secure bio-bubbles, the same cannot be said about hotel staff, logistics personnel and ground staff at training and match venues.

Given that these individual perform everyday commutes between their residences and their workplace everyday, they are undoubtedly exposed to the harsh elements that ravage Mumbai city at the moment.

A daily temperature check is all that prevents a ground staff from entering a venue. Asymptomatic personnel at the venue, therefore, is BCCI's worst nightmare.

New studies report that the COVID-19 virus can stay active on plastic and stainless steel surfaces for up to 72 hours.

That and the aerosols that emanate from an individual every time a player or team staff interacts with a member of the ground staff or hospitality unit, makes for a highly vulnerable environment in the so-called secure bio-bubble.

And it is for this very reason that several overseas players have been reluctant to come on board the moment Josh Hazelwood pulled out of IPL 2021 while citing bubble fatigue.

BCCI protocols for those testing positive

For their part though, the BCCI is banking on the successful implementation of the bio-bubble in the UAE last year.

That template though, came under scrutiny when Axar Patel texted positive despite checking into the bio-bubble with an initial negative report.

This sent BCCI on a proverbial leather hunt and what followed were repose guidelines and follow-up measures of immediate player isolation, contact tracing and testing, a 10-day isolation and permitted re-entry only after negative testing of a player thereafter.

All said and done, these are measures only and just like the falling of wickets impede a run-chase, an innocuous breach is all it takes for the dominoes to fall and for all hell to break loose.

Fans and administrators meanwhile, can only keep their fingers crossed and hope that the players play safe.

With inputs from PTI

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