In Spain, La Liga has just returned to action and in England cricket is all but set to resume – all behind closed doors. However, New Zealand though is allowing fans at sporting events but the coronavirus pandemic’s rapid spread does not afford India or the BCCI to think in terms of crowds at the currently suspended IPL, when that eventually takes place.
The ICC are undecided about hosting the T20 World Cup in October-November in Australia while the BCCI, the richest board in world the game, is preparing for its marquee tournament, IPL, to happen behind closed doors.
“Once we get a window of at least 40 days for IPL, we will figure out safety protocols, player travel, bio-secure arrangements, etc.,” said BCCI treasurer Arun Dhumal.
And each franchise is busy formulating their plans.
“If you imagine a city like Mumbai, which has four quality grounds and a fifth nearby in Pune, every side can have their own team hotel. We can explore if rooms need to be next to each other to ensure spacing between players…personalised towels, water bottles,” KKR CEO Venky Mysore told Indian Express.
“Travel, hotels, kits, food, gym, bus seating are all things to be minutely looked at. But we are talking of a finite group with eight franchises, and say 160 players and 80 support staff. That’s around 250 testing kits…should be manageable,” Mysore adds.
A smaller number than either the Bundesliga, La Liga or Premier League.
The BCCI and the organisers are gung-ho about pulling off the IPL and setting an example in how to resume the sport.
“Staging the IPL will lift spirits,” says the BCCI official. “IPL will show the world how it’s done in cricket,” says the KKR chief, who also believes the IPL without foreign players would be a bad idea.
Broadcaster Star Sports’ head Uday Shankar has a plan. “They can be brought in charter flights. Earlier, they used to come five days in advance; now they will have to come two weeks before the game, be in quarantine, and be more careful when training,” he says.
As for guidelines, the ICC’s “back to cricket” advisory can be expected to work for IPL, too: Testing before travel, pre-match isolation, daily temperature scans, and hiring of medical advisors and bio-safety officials. Along with sanitising protocols, like players not sharing gym equipment, the ICC even says treatment beds in medical rooms should have no bed linen.
A BCCI veteran Niranjan Shah, however, adds a note of caution — and asks a key question.
“This is an extraordinarily difficult moment in history. And it is ridiculous to even think of cricket right now. First, let’s bring the situation back to normal,” he says. “Can we risk even one player getting infected?”