IPL 2021: As pandemic worsens players feel the heat, R Ashwin, Kane Richardson, Adam Zampa pull out
Despite being inside bio-secure bubbles, players and staff of the Indian Premier League (IPL) franchises are clearly getting affected by the Covid-19 situation outside. In the midst of the second pandemic surge nationwide, the death toll and infection rate has seen an exponential growth over the last couple of weeks and its toll is now evident with players pulling out. So far, five players have pulled out after the tournament started from Delhi Capitals, Rajasthan Royals and Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Senior off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, who plays for Delhi Capitals, in a tweet posted after midnight on Monday announced that he would be pulling out of this year’s edition till normalcy resumes. The Delhi Capitals finished their Chennai leg on Sunday with a win over Sunrisers Hyderabad and would now be moving to Ahmedabad. Ashwin, a resident of Chennai, played in that match.
“I would be taking a break from this years IPL from tomorrow. My family and extended family are putting up a fight against #COVID19 and I want to support them during these tough times. I expect to return to play if things go in the right direction. Thank you @DelhiCapitals,” he wrote.
As more and more countries like England and Australia are imposing travel restrictions on travelers from India, the situation is getting worse for the overseas players too. In a statement on Monday morning, the Royal Challengers Bangalore franchise said: “Adam Zampa & Kane Richardson are returning to Australia for personal reasons and will be unavailable for the remainder of IPL season. Royal Challengers Bangalore offers complete support to them in all the possible way we can.”
A day before Rajasthan Royals’ Australian recruit Andrew Tye left the tournament. The franchise said it was due to “personal reasons”. But in an interview to SEN radio on Monday, Tye said it was due to the pandemic situation.
“There was a number of reasons, but the main one was with the situation that has started to happen back home in Perth with a lot of cases in hotel quarantine coming out of India,” Tye said. “Now there’s been a community case in Perth governments are trying to restrict numbers coming back in, especially Western Australia."
“I just thought to try and get on the front foot and get home before I got locked out of the country. It's been a long time in bubbles and hubs - doing the calculations earlier, think I've had 11 days at home out of the bubble since August, so for me I just wanted to get home.”
Tye is not the only overseas player who has pulled out due to the pandemic. Another Rajasthan player England’s Liam Livingstone pulled out due to “bubble fatigue,” according to the player. This comes as the IPL continues to be played across some of the most affected cities in the country.
The 2021 edition started in Chennai and Mumbai and now moves to Delhi and Ahmedabad. All the cities have seen a heavy rise of cases in the past few weeks. The Delhi leg will be played from April 28 to May 8 with four teams playing – Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai Indians, Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Though the organisers, both BCCI and at the state-level, are confident about the secure nature of the bio-bubble, the players are nervous.
“This IPL, probably more than any other, has become more about what's happening outside than what's happening here,” Ricky Ponting, Delhi Capitals coach, said in an interview to the franchise’s PR team on Saturday. “We right now are probably the safest people in the country being in the bubbles that we are in. Continually I'm asking the boys at breakfast every day how's everything going on the outside, how's family, (is) family safe, (is) family happy. That's a really important thing.
"It is really important, we are thinking about the extended family, not just us, but we've got to be talking about what's happening outside because it is quite grim."
Ponting also said it was natural for the Indian players in the IPL to get affected mentally with the situation outside the bubble. "It is hard for the players to be away from their families. I can't imagine… Even if I put myself in this situation, guys that live in Chennai are actually home now, but can't see their families," he said. "It must be incredibly difficult. So the more we can share these experiences, the better off we are. The people that aren't from India, the more that we can be talking to the locals about what they are going through the better off we are all going to be. We will just keep our fingers crossed. And hope people remain safe. That's a big thing for me: the players are taking the best care of their families where they can from the outside."