Mumbai: The global outbreak of coronavirus pandemic has taken its toll on Indian Premier League (IPL) which is now deferred until April 15. The decision to postpone the tournament, scheduled to start on March 29, was taken in the wake of the advice given by various arms of the Indian government.
There is also a high probability that the 13th edition of the tournament could be held closed doors. “We are discussing the possibility of playing IPL behind closed doors, and other things will be discussed today in the meeting with all the eight IPL franchises,” said an official from BCCI.
The team owners have suggested pushing the T20 league by a couple of weeks amid the Covid-19 outbreak.
On Thursday, the ministry of external affairs advised BCCI to not go ahead with the cricket extravaganza in order to avoid public gatherings though it also left the final decision with the organisers.
Meanwhile, the Maharashtra government has raised concerns over IPL matches in Mumbai, and Karnataka government has already written to the centre seeing advice on whether IPL matches should be held in Bangaluru followed by Delhi cancelling all the IPL matches in the capital.
The league is considering a closed-door edition in an effort to avoid a complete cancellation of the 2020 season but one wonders if it is an ideal scenario to have matches without audiences, given that the matches attract packed stadiums, upping the players’ zeal.
“I saw Friday’s ODI match between Australia and New Zealand, which was played closed doors in Australia. There was no zeal without spectators in the match. It looked like a practice match,” shares Rajesh Chauhan, a former spinner of the Indian cricket team and suggests that the ideal scenario for the tournament is to make two different formats wherein Indian players can play the first round followed by western players after April 15.
“Foreign players are very sensitive. I doubt players would come to India at this stage and it is not advisable too. If the virus effect continues, better call off the tournament this year,” suggests the spinner.
Senior Cricket Administrator, Anant Vyas also says that the charged-up atmosphere, which the format is known for, will be missing in IPL.
“The success of IPL is because of the audience’s presence and the unwritten competition that the fans have with each other. This fun will be missing on the ground,” he shares and adds that changing the dates further is a tough call as the dates for the IPL tournament are given by International Cricket Council, ICC.
“IPL goes on for about two months and most of the players are busy in this so they can’t participate in other series which are pre-scheduled for the entire year hence changing dates further won’t be easy,” he explains.
In the past, there has been no instance where a match is played closed doors and as far as IPL is concerned, it has a similar fan following as World Cup. But IPL also involves private owners and is also revenue-making model for players as well as team owners.
“Box office collection for a match is way lesser than television rights. BCCI can surely organise the tournament without spectators because there isn’t a huge financial loss that can’t be covered,” says Vyas. He further adds that organisers will save money on maintenance of the ground in case the matches happen without in-stadium spectators.
“There will be no expenses and publicity panels are put up there for TV so the hard-core cricket fans will watch the match on TV. If the IPL is called off then it will be a loss for everyone so everyone will agree to indoor matches” he adds.
Although the tournament has been rescheduled with 15 days, experts feel it is still too soon. Pulmonologist and chest physician Dr Amit Gawande suggests that the matches should be postponed further or should be called off.
“Ideal scenario is to avoid public gatherings and April 15 is not too far. We don’t know the update yet for the virus and hence holding the tournament for some more time or calling it off is recommended,” suggests the doctor.