The 14th season of the Indian Premier League is just a day away but the rise in Covid-19 cases in the country, among the players, franchise staff, service providers and several others associated with the tournament has become a headache for the BCCI. This season we’ll again see teams playing their heart out inside empty stadiums to curb the spread of the virus. Despite being inside the bio-secure bubble, the virus is proving to be a menace ahead of the start of the cash-rich league.
Close to 30 people associated with the IPL have been infected by the virus so far.
This has forced the board o go back to the drawing board for fresh ideas to deal with the problem. some of the new measures include requesting separate IPL check-in counters at airports, daily Covid tests and the appointment of a bio-bubble integrity officer.
Last year, BCCI pulled off almost a scratch-free tournament in the UAE but this year they have a task at hand. In the UAE, there were only three venues, whereas, in India, there are six — Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Chennai. The relative distance between UAE’s venues was also short which allowed the franchises to travel by bus. Mumbai and Ahmedabad are the two closest venues, yet they are almost 530 kilometres away.
This makes air travel imperative and Airports thus become a place where players and others associated with the tournament face the risk of exposure to the virus.
Recently, Mumbai and Delhi have witnessed a significant spike in Covid-19 cases which has forced a night curfew (though the IPL has been exempted from the restriction) while the other venues are also experiencing a fresh wave of infections.
According to The Indian Express, BCCI is going to request the Indian government to allow separate IPL security check-in counters at the airport, so that teams star in a secure bio-bubble. Mumbai Indians scout, Kiran More’s positive test has also forced BCCI to think of making the bio-secure bubble more robust. More tested negative before reaching Chennai, but was found to be infected, but asymptomatic, five days after landing. The former India cricketer could have been exposed to the virus during travel, hence the board is all set to request for separate IPL check-in counters because each team will travel three times after entering the bio-bubble.
The BCCI will also now conduct tests on each team daily to track any possible infections better. At the same time, a bio-bubble integrity officer has to ensure that the players have their mask on the entire time they are outside of their room and they will also have to wear masks while leaving the ground.
These stricter guidelines have been necessitated after a number of cases emerged in the last two weeks.
BCCI also claims to have a Bluetooth tracking device for each team as the board has tied up with Gem3s Technology Private Limited this season, but four franchises confirmed to The Indian Express that they are yet to receive any Bluetooth device.
Also, as per the protocol, any player/support staff who comes in direct contact with a Covid-19 infected person will have to undergo seven days in isolation but if players have had minimal contact with the positive case, they will be allowed to train after two negative tests.
This is why Mumbai Indians were allowed to resume training despite More’s positive test. The defending champions were kept under isolation for two days but after two Covid-19 tests, it was decided to allow players to resume training. As More’s interaction with MI batsmen and bowlers was minimum, the BCCI and franchise medical teams decided to allow players to train for the inaugural IPL match against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Friday.