India’s Biggest Sporting League, Mired In Controversy, Is Suspended As Covid-19 Batters The Nation

The Indian Premier League (IPL), the most popular sporting event and high-profile in the country, was suspended indefinitely on Tuesday after several players and support staff of at least three different teams tested positive for Covid-19, a development which occurs after the cricket league would have been criticized for operating in a bubble and diverting resources, while the rest of the country was struggling with the pandemic.

In a press release, the Cricket Control Board in India (BCCI) said that tournament officials and local authorities have decided to postpone the IPL 2021 season, with immediate effect.

The board said it did not want to” compromise the safety of players, support staff and other participants, ” and that it had made the decision for the safety and well-being of all stakeholders.

Several questions have been raised about the multi-million dollar League operating within a safe bio-bubble, while the rest of the country has been severely affected by the pandemic.

As of Sunday, the league had hosted 29 spectator-free matches since April 9, as players stayed and moved in what the league referred to as “bio-safe bubbles”.”

Since Monday, however, several players and staff members from at least three of the city-based franchises have tested positive for Covid-19, which initially led to the cancellation of Monday night’s match between the Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kolkata Knight Riders.

Earlier Tuesday, several media reports suggested that BCCI planned to move the entire league to Mumbai City, in an attempt to cut travel and create a safer bubble.

IPL is cricket’s richest and highest profile league and features foreign stars from Australia, England, New Zealand, West Indies, South Africa, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The biggest impact of IPL cancellation will likely be faced by Australian league players, support staff, commentators and presenters. Somewhat controversial, the Australian Prime Minister last week banned all passengers from India, including Australian citizens. Those trying to circumvent the ban risk massive fines of up to 5 50,000 (A to 66,000) and jail time. It is unclear what stranded Australians plan to do now, but they could be left with two options: staying in India until the travel ban is lifted or the more likely option of traveling to a third country and being quarantined there for a few weeks before returning to Australia. Several Australian stars left the league last week waiting for a travel ban to come into effect. Australian cricket star Pat Cummins—one of the league’s biggest earnings with a salary of $2.1 million-last week, promised to donate 5 50,000 of his earnings to help fund Covid-19 relief in India.

Last year’S IPL had also been postponed from its regular April-May to September slot and held in the UAE, due to Covid-19 concerns in India at the time. However, the BCCI decided to host the 2021 tournament in India itself, as Covid-19 cases in the country had plummeted significantly earlier in the year. Initial plans also included allowing at least 50% fan attendance at some stadiums. Those plans were shelved weeks before the start of the league, as India was hit by a second massive wave of infections and deaths. However, several critics questioned the decision to move forward with the tournament that inevitably diverted resources from places that might need them most. According to the New York Times, the BCCI had secured special privileges for cricket stars that included ambulances equipped with mobile waiting intensive care beds, dedicated airport check-in counters, and chartered flights. Australian bowler Andrew Tye, who retired from the league last month, even questioned the companies and franchises involved in the league for splashing millions of dollars into it while “there are people who can’t be accepted into the hospital.”

48,926. That’s the total number of official covid-19 deaths in India reported in April, its worst month of the pandemic, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University’s Covid—19 tracker. However, the actual count is likely to be several times higher, as several local and state governments have been accused of failing to report or count Covid-19 deaths, according to several local media reports and medical experts. India has registered more than 20 million Covid infections as of Tuesday, only surpassed by the 32 million cases in the United States to date.

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