Abhijit Chowdhury
IPL was shifted to UAE from India due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Though the official announcement came on Sunday, the news was hovering in the media for the past week. And at the same time, another sports event that was scheduled to be held in Dubai was canceled. When Indian media was looking for a sneak into BCCI officials for a scoop about IPL shift, World Rugby announced that the 2020 Dubai Rugby Sevens has been canceled. It was scheduled for the November last week. And yet BCCI went ahead with the idea of organizing the IPL in the Emirates.

The IPL is to be held in UAE from September 19 to November 10. But this announcement came before finalizing the secured environment where the tournament is to be staged. 

In the meantime, it was reported that the Tata Medical and Diagnostics has offered to prepare a bio-secure bubble for all parties involved in the IPL 2020. A presentation on the aforementioned concern was also presented to BCCI. Which according to the Tata institute is, “a holistic, state-of-the-art integrated Bridgital technology-based, end-to-end, COVID safety services solution and enable the league to set the gold standard.

The Tata group has offered to prepare a three-level security program in the bio-bubble leveraging on the risk factor associated with the level of participants. However, the BCCI has not accepted the Tata’s proposal yet. They will study it over the next few days before arriving at a decision. If accepted, the proposals will be incorporated in the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) prepared by the BCCI, which is yet to hand over to the IPL teams.

But the question is how can a tournament with eight teams be staged without having proper measures pinned to the top of the to-do list. The relentless spread of the virus and the enduring lockdown meant that IPL had to postponed. The chronological sequence of India’s cricket schedule starting March this year first got disturbed when Covid-19 took a toll on the one-day series against South Africa at home, followed by the postponement of the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League. 

But eager to return to cricket and earn some of the losses back, BCCI got the nod of the central government to organize the IPL. And in statement regard this it was said, The IPL Governing Council discussed the comprehensive Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), which will be finalized and published in due course, including the agencies to execute and deliver a bio-secure environment for the safe and successful conduct of IPL 2020 Season.

But as the COVID-19 headcount in India keeps mounting, the tournament was moved out of the country to UAE. Matter of the fact is UAE is not a country where COVID is wiped off. Yes, the outspread in that country was restricted but there are still 6000 active cases as the BCCI decided to shift IPL to that country. As per reports, the squad size in terms of playing members will be 24 per franchise to curb the possibility of outspread. But 8 teams with players coming from all around the world, staying in hotels, is that the ideal way to go forward with this tournament? One of the most valid questions is, any number of COVID replacements is permitted. But does it actually make sense? Cause, if a player is tested positive, the other players of the teams are to be quarantined too. In that case, is the match is going to be forfeited, or will it be continued with the other players in the team taking the field and risking the opposition team also! The return of IPL definitely is happy news, but the worrying things are the clarity of the implementation of regulations to prevent COVID is not there yet. But hopefully, it will soon be there. 

Still, questions like, what if a marque player is affected with COVID during the tournament or a coach, with whom all the players in the team are bound to interact with; the whole team is going to be quarantined? In that case, is it possible to reschedule the matches? What if a player is found to be positive while in India during the training sessions? The team is not to travel to the UAE at all? Is there going to be sessions for teams before the tour at all? If not so, what is the quality of cricket are we expecting in the tournament? There are many questions with just speculations at this point in time. The final question will always remain though. In a year when Olympics was canceled, ICC canceled the T20 world cup, was it legit for BCCI to rush and organize IPL? Was it a calculated risk or a gamble? Only time will tell.

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