IPL 2021: COVID scare and a tournament now in jeopardy?
As two KKR players, three CSK non-playing staff, and five DDCA groundsmen test positive for COVID-19, clouds of doubt emerge on the future of IPL 2021
As cricket lovers and fans woke up and started going about their days on a breezy Monday morning following the exciting IPL 2021 double-header they witnessed last night, ominous news broke the day – the game between Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalore to be played in Ahmedabad was going to be rescheduled.
Social media was sent into a frenzy, speculating and contemplating on the happenings and the myriad conflicting reports from journalists breaking stories, creating mass panic and disorder. The pristine bio-bubble environment of the Indian Premier League regarded by many and even by the BCCI as the safest place in India right now had been breached.
An official BCCI press release revealed that two KKR players – Varun Chakravarthy and Sandeep Warrier – had tested positive for COVID-19. Apparently, the mystery spinner from Tamil Nadu might have gotten infected when he visited a hospital to get a scan done on his shoulder.
While the manner in which Varun Chakravarthy's case was handled by the KKR personnel is still unclear, the situation does raise some serious questions about the future of IPL 2021 from this point onwards.
BCCI's press release about the latest development added that the remaining players and staff of the Knight Riders contingent had tested negative. "Both the players have isolated themselves from the rest of the squad. The Medical Team is in continuous touch with the duo and are monitoring their health. Meanwhile, the Kolkata Knight Riders have now moved towards a daily testing routine to identify any other possible cases and treat them at the earliest.
"The Medical Team is also determining the close and casual contacts of the two positive cases during the 48 hours prior to collection of the sample that returned the positive test results.
"The BCCI and the Kolkata Knight Riders prioritise the health and safety of everyone involved and all measures are being taken in that endeavour," read the rest of the media advisory issued by the IPL.
This official announcement was followed by a plethora of rumours that personnel from the Star Sports Network, the broadcast network covering the entire tournament, had also tested positive. Apparently, several franchises and their players have also gone into a panic mode regarding the recent development.
At the time of writing, an ESPN Cricinfo report revealed that three non-playing members of the Chennai Super Kings contingent – CEO Kasi Vishwanathan, bowling coach L Balaji and a bus cleaner have also tested positive on Monday.
Meanwhile, five DDCA groundsmen at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium in Delhi who were on ground during the match between Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad have tested positive for the dreaded virus.
If there's one thing that's abundantly clear right now, it is the fact that the BCCI can longer pretend that the IPL is being played in a parallel world where everything is fine and merry.
For weeks now, there have been serious debates and discussions on the viability of hosting the IPL when the entire country is gasping for oxygen and is down on its knees ravaged by the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Smoke from funeral pyres filled the air in Delhi even as T20 cricket's flagship competition was played under the floodlights of the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium, a few miles away. Earlier, several Australian players, including Adam Zampa and Andrew Tye had decided to return home while Ravichandran Ashwin quit the Delhi Capitalsbio-bubble in order to spend time with his family in these trying times.
Though the tone-deaf nature of the tournament has been mitigated over the last couple of weeks with regular announcements on the importance of staying at home and staying safe, several players acknowledging the gravity of the situation, and donating to India's COVID relief, the recent bio-bubble breach might end up taking a serious toll on the remainder of IPL 2021.
The safety of the players and personnel is of paramount importance, as the BCCI has stated time and time again. While the match tonight between KKR and RCB tonight has been rescheduled, an exact date hasn't been communicated by the BCCI. A Cricbuzz report states that KKR's next match against Delhi Capitals on the 8th of May might also have to be adjusted.
While it is unclear what will happen from here on, there's no doubt that there will be repercussions and ramifications. It must also be mentioned here that the decision to host the IPL games across different venues in the country that involves a lot of travelling and logistics has come back to haunt BCCI.
As we await further developments, it remains to be seen what decision is taken ultimately. Rejigging the entire tournament could prove to be a nightmare and while the absence of matches will leave a 7PM to 11PM hole in the daily schedules of every cricket fan, nothing is more important than the safety of the players and everyone involved with IPL 2021.