New Delhi: Uncertainty looms over India hosting the T20 World Cup this year after the Indian Premier League (IPL) was postponed on Tuesday following rising Covid-19 positive cases in four out of the eight competing teams, and all over India.
The IPL bio-bubble was supposed to be tight and impenetrable despite the rising number of Covid-19 cases across the country. However, the emergence of positive cases in half of the IPL teams has put question marks over the Indian cricket board’s ability to put up a safe bio-secure environment.
The World Cup is scheduled to be held in October-November in India.
Although the tournament is still five months away and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) feels there is still time, the forced suspension of the tournament is unlikely to go down well with the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the other national cricket boards.
An ICC recce team that was supposed to visit India during the IPL cancelled/postponed its programme due to the pandemic.
A top BCCI official last week confirmed that the UAE has already been kept as a standby venue for the T20 Wold Cup.
“It would be the UAE. We’re hoping again that it would be done by the BCCI. So, we’ll take the tournament there, but it’ll still be done by the BCCI,” Dhiraj Malhotra, General Manager (Game Development), told BBC’s Stumped podcast last week.
India is witnessing a surge in Covid-19 cases with daily fresh cases in the range of 3.5 to 4 lakh. Apart from that, India is also reporting around 3,500 deaths a day.
If the situation doesn’t improve going forward, other cricket boards too may be reluctant to send their teams. Even while the IPL was underway without any reported Covid-19 cases, some Australian players and commentator Michael Slater left the bio-bubble to return home.
If the T20 World Cup doesn’t happen in India, it will be the first time India will be hosting an international tournament or a series outside the country.
The BCCI has hosted the IPL abroad twice previously — in South Africa in 2009 and in the UAE in 2020. It also hosted part of the 2014 IPL edition in the UAE.
There had been talks to hold the IPL in the UAE this year also, but a section of the BCCI did not agree to it and instead decided to host it in India.
On Monday, two players of the Kolkata Knight Riders team – Varun Chakravarthy and Sandeep Warrier – and the bowling coach of Chennai Super Kings, Laxmipathy Balaji tested positive while on Tuesday, a player each from SunRisers Hyderabad (Wriddhiman Saha) and Delhi Capitals (believed to be Amit Mishra) tested positive. Besides, two members of support staff of the CSK also tested positive.