Event organisers tell players they are putting smiles on faces of those suffering.
The Indian Premier League which is scheduled to run until May 30th has faced criticism for continuing despite the worsening COVID crisis in India – leading to one major publisher in the country deciding to suspend coverage of the event.
The New Indian Express and a sister publication said on Sunday they had decided it would not continue IPL coverage, while many fans took to social media to question the decision of the IPL organisers to press on.
According to a Reuters report an IPL governing council member told the international news agency: “IPL provides a much-needed distraction for all from the doom and gloom around us,”. The official added that the league has “a robust bio-bubble” and was being played without fans which made it safe to continue.’
Three Australians decided to leave the IPL prematurely over the past three days citing ‘personal reasons’. India reported nearly 320,000 Covid-19 cases and 2762 deaths on Monday.
An email from the BCCI sought to dispel fears of foreign players being stuck in India because of travel restrictions.
“We understand that many of you are apprehensive about how you will get back home once the tournament concludes, which is natural and understandable. We want to apprise you that you have nothing to worry about. The BCCI will do everything to ensure that you reach your respective destinations seamlessly.
“The BCCI is monitoring the situation very closely and is working with the government authorities to make arrangements to get you home once the tournament concludes. Be rest assured that the tournament is not over for BCCI till each one of you has reached your home, safe and sound,” BCCI’s interim chief executive officer Hemang Amin wrote in an email to teams, players and the support staff.
As it stands, all 11 England players still at the IPL – including the one-day captain, Eoin Morgan – are remaining in the country and were among those to receive an update on Tuesday morning from Hemang Amin, the interim chief executive of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, acknowledging the growing concerns.
In an email Amin said: “[We] understand that there are few apprehensions and concerns regarding the general situation in India and the withdrawals of certain cricketers. We completely respect the decision taken by the players and extend our support to them in every way. At the same time, we would also assure you that you are totally safe within the bubble.”
Amin stated the IPL would increase Covid testing for players and support staff to every two days – it was previously every fifth day – while food deliveries to the team hotels have been paused “to strengthen our bio-bubbles”.
More pressing for overseas players are the logistical issues presented by India’s travel status during this recent surge. England players face 10 days of quarantine in a government-approved hotel upon arrival back in the UK, while Australia has announced a temporary ban on all direct flights from India until 15 May.
On the subject of travel once the IPL wraps up on 30 May, Amin said: “We want to apprise you that you have nothing to worry about. The BCCI will do everything to ensure that you reach your respective destinations seamlessly.
“The BCCI is monitoring the situation very closely and is working with the government authorities to make arrangements to get you home once the tournament concludes. Be rest assured that the tournament is not over for BCCI till each one of you has reached your home, safe and sound.”
It remains to be seen whether these assurances prevent further players opting to leave, so, too, a rallying cry at the end of the tournament-wide email that insists the IPL is providing relief for a country that has recorded 198,000 Covid-related deaths since the start of the pandemic and more than 2,000 per day since 20 April.
Amin said: “While you go about playing the sport we all love, you are also doing something really important. As some of you have said, ‘if we can help distract people from all the troubles of recent times, even if it is for a short while, we have done a great job’.
“When you all walk out on to the field, you are bringing hope to millions of people who have tuned in. If, even for a minute, you can bring a smile on someone’s face, then you have done well. While you are professionals and will play to win, this time you are also playing for something much more important … humanity.
The IPL is being played at six venues but in a phased manner. The first leg of the tournament was played in Chennai and Mumbai while the second, which began on Monday, will be at Ahmedabad and Delhi. Bangalore and Kolkata are the other venues and the play-offs and final will be held at Ahmedabad. The league matches will end on May 23, followed by the qualifiers from May 25 to 28, the eliminator on May 26 and the final on May 30.