MUMBAI: As reactions keep coming in over the fate of the Indian Premier League‘s (IPL) 13th edition in the wake of Covid-19 and the potential threat it poses, there’s no clear answer to the big question yet: What is in store for IPL 2020?
The office-bearers of BCCI will arrive in Mumbai on Friday, a day before the governing council (GC) of IPL is scheduled to meet here. They’ll discuss the latest advisory released on Thursday by the sports ministry for all national sports federations and BCCI.
The advisory states that “there shall be no public gathering at any sporting events (read: IPL in the present context) and will be played behind closed doors without spectators”.
In the light of this advisory, neither the BCCI nor the IPL GC will be in any hurry to make announcements. “We’ll wait and monitor the situation,” is the standard answer. In fact, nobody has an answer to the questions right now. To cancel a match takes less than 48 hours. To organise one takes weeks of planning. If the sports ministry has suggested playing to empty stands, the clear message coming out is that IPL is on for now.
TOI looked at the possible solutions that are in play and the repercussions that Covid-19 may have on IPL in the coming weeks.
A) Will IPL 2020 be held?
Right now: The league is on, scheduled to begin on the given date (March 29). There’s no official notification to state otherwise.
Going forward: The tournament could either be postponed, the format slightly rejigged to fit into a smaller window or the tournament could be played to empty stands (behind closed doors).
B) Chances of cancellation?
Right now: Highly unlikely. The government advisory allows BCCI to plan for the tournament. The BCCI too is busy working on a Plan-B.
Going forward: Only a mass outbreak of the virus in the coming weeks could force a cancellation. There are 17 days left for the tournament to begin. Each day counts.
C) Empty stands or change in format…how will it work?
Right now: The first option is playing to empty stands. Franchises and broadcasters will have to follow the government advisory. The tournament, then, could be limited to specific venues.
Going forward: The second option is a change in format, only if the scenario demands. Eight teams could be divided in two groups (like 2011 edition). The tournament can see less than 20 to 25 games, to be wrapped up within a month.
D) Will overseas players be allowed?
Right now: Australian opener David Warner‘s visa has been rejected. However, those in the know say it has happened because of technical glitches in his application.
Going forward: Franchises will have to give their consent for the processing of visas, which is the norm. If the government has no objection to the league being played closed doors, visa processes will be expedited as “exceptional” cases.
The FAQs aside, the league’s working hands are going to lose sleep as they stare at a phenomenal workload of handling operations and logistics if changes are necessitated.
They have a lot on their plate already: From hotel and flight bookings to re-scheduling of venues, rejigging sponsorship commitments, renegotiating with official rights holders, handling in-stadia arrangements, planning the event in a more television-friendly way and more.
NOT WISE TO HOLD IPL: MEA
NEW DELHI: The MEA has left the decision of holding the IPL to the organisers, though senior officials said it may not be wise to do it now. Responding to journalists’ questions, senior MEA official Damu Ravi said, “I think it is for the organisers to decide whether to go ahead with it or not. Our advice would be to not do it at this time but if they want to go ahead, it is their decision.” Later, however, MEA clarified that the ministry had not yet been asked for any inputs on the matter.
Participation of overseas players key
MUMBAI: If overseas players are removed from the equation, there is little difference between IPL and Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament, salaries notwithstanding. That is why, the arrival of overseas players will be the key to IPL happening this year, regardless of the tournament being played close doors or in a rejigged format in a shorter window.
On Thursday afternoon, the visa application of Australian opener David Warner was rejected, leading to fears that under the revised government advisory for travel, visas may not be handed out to individuals arriving here on ‘business’.
That however may not be the case. Sources told TOI on Thursday that “if the government is okay with IPL being played, visas won’t be a problem. The process will be expedited when necessary”. BCCI is finding out about the availability of these overseas players. TOI spoke to franchises who said that the league cannot go ahead without these players, “whether the tournament is played to empty stands or in a rejigged format or rescheduled”.