India vs South Africa: BCCI confirms Lucknow, Kolkata ODIs to be played behind closed doors

The sports ministry has issued an advisory that in case it’s unavoidable to postpone a sporting event, then it is preferable that it be conducted without a large public gathering.
File image: India's Shikhar Dhawan and Prithvi Shaw after nets session.(REUTERS)
File image: India's Shikhar Dhawan and Prithvi Shaw after nets session.(REUTERS)
Updated on Mar 12, 2020 11:05 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Lucknow | By Sharad Deep & Manish Chandra Pandey

An advisory from the sports ministry has ensured that the second and third ODIs between India and South Africa will be played behind closed doors in the wake of the COVID-19, the coronavirus pandemic. The two matches were scheduled to be held in Lucknow and Kolkata on March 15 and 18 after the opening game was washed out in Dharamsala on Thursday.

“We have been instructed by the union sports ministry to hold the match behind closed doors. The advisory has instructed us not to allow the gathering of fans and we are following the instructions,” Ekana Sportz City’s managing director Udai Sinha, who runs the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ekana Stadium here, said on Thursday. Ticket holders for the match will be refunded.

Also read: Remaining Pakistan Super League matches behind closed doors

Later on Thursday, the BCCI announced that after “holding discussions with the sports and health ministries”, it was decided that the remaining two ODIs would be “played without any public gathering, including spectators”.

“The BCCI is making every effort for compliance with the regulatory bodies of the Government of India and ensure the safety of our athletes and valued fans,” the statement said.

Expressing concern

Earlier, the Uttar Pradesh government had expressed its concern over hosting the match in the state, where 11 people have tested positive for so far, with the first case being reported here on Wednesday with UP health minister Jai Pratap Singh wanting the match to be postponed and the Lucknow district administration to guard against such gatherings.

“It’s true that most of the cases reported in UP or elsewhere primarily had a foreign connection. Unlike countries like Italy, which have been locked down due to the COVID-19 threat, in India as well as UP the cases are mostly localised. You just saw that Holi passed peacefully without any major worry,” the minister said.

Also read: Fans express displeasure after another Dharamsala clash gets washed out

“After the government advisory, we did an inspection and also spoke to the BCCI officials. Now, we have decided to hold the Lucknow match without any spectators,” said Yudhveer Singh, UPCA secretary.

Sinha added that all necessary steps—as per the instructions of BCCI—have already been taken to check the spread of the virus. “Screening of every individual, including match officials, media and players will be done by medical experts at all entry gates.”

The impact of the coronavirus scare can be gauged by the fact that not many tickets were sold for Sunday’s match.

Earlier, ticket sales for the third ODI at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata were also put on hold who were waiting for further directions from the authorities and the BCCI in the matter.

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