Coronavirus outbreak: IPL debates scenarios, a curtailed event the best bet
As the COVID-19 pandemic shut down sporting events all across the world, the eight franchises that make the IPL met the top brass of the BCCI to discuss the road ahead for the league’s uncertain 2020 season. On Friday, BCCI president Sourav Ganguly had already announced that the league, which was scheduled to begin March 29, has been suspended till April 15. After today’s meeting with the team owners and the IPL governing council (GC), Ganguly announced that the IPL is certain to be cut short.
“As it is we have put it off till April 15, then, in any case 15 days are gone, so it will be a truncated one. How many games, we cannot say at the moment,” he said. Yet, at the GC meeting eight scenarios were presented, including ones where matches will not be sacrificed.
The best case scenario was one where the IPL is able to begin on April 16, giving the league 46 days in which to squeeze in the full quota of 60 games by increasing the number of double headers. Another option looked at how it would still be possible to stage 60 games even if the number of days got cut to 42—any less, and the number of matches would have to be reduced. The maximum postponement after which the league could still be played was fixed as April 30. In this scenario, the eight teams would be split into two groups playing home and away—32 matches—with the top four teams making the playoffs.
With the number of matches cut to almost half, the broadcast rights terms for the season would have to renegotiated.
There was also talk about identifying alternate venues, if certain state governments advised against staging matches, or if it comes to playing in states where the virus impact is zero. Currently, all sporting events are banned in Delhi, Karnataka, and Maharashtra. A closed-door IPL was also discussed as a possibility.
For all these permutations and combinations to work, other cricket playing boards will also have to play ball, and release their players to travel to India. “If any member board is not willing or is unable to release players, than one franchise may stand to lose, and another might remain unaffected. So, maximum availability of overseas talent is necessary, and that’s only possible if health-safety improves and visas are secured,” said a board official.
At the moment, the government has also suspended all visas (with some exemptions, like for those in the diplomatic category). “As much as we want to host the IPL, we have to be very careful about the security of everyone,” Ganguly said.
There is precedence for a truncated IPL. In 2009, when the league’s dates clashed with the general elections, it was shifted to South Africa and shortened to 37 days, with multiple double headers.
“Allow us a week and then we will figure out how things go around the world and decide,” Ganguly said. “We will reassess the situation every week.”
With the BCCI staring at the possibility of losing money, IPL chairman Brijesh Patel also spoke about the value of introducing virtual advertising at the GC meeting. If that happens, it will be a first for Indian cricket.
Virtual advertising, which substitutes ads on perimeter LED boards for different live feeds, is common in the top European football leagues.
“Virtual advertising images will be unique to regions. The ad image a fan is watching in India will be different from what a viewer in the US market would be watching. The board would stand to benefit monetarily, if we can put it together soon,” a BCCI official said.
Before the GC meeting, the rich and famous who own the IPL teams, including actor Shah Rukh Khan, co-owner of KKR, Ness Wadia, co-owner of Kings X1 Punjab, and Akash Ambani from Mumbai Indians attended the franchise meeting.
“I think everyone in India and the world must understand that the BCCI, nor the IPL, nor Star is here to gain monetary benefit by having the IPL. The stakeholders are not interested in having any gain from this situation or try to hold the IPL without a clear understanding of the situation,” said Kings X1 Punjab co-owner Ness Wadia.
Irani Cup on hold
The BCCI put on hold the Irani Cup match between Ranji Trophy champions Saurashtra and Rest of India as well as all other domestic tournament as precaution due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a statement, BCCI said Vizzy Trophy (inter-zone varsity event), women’s one-day knockout and one-day challenger as well as junior women’s tournaments—U-23 knockout and one-day challenger, and U-19 one-day knockout, T20 league, super league, knockout and T20 Challenger Trophy—were postponed indefinitely.
Aus, NZ series halted
MELBOURNEThe Australia-New Zealand limited-overs tours were called off due to the new travel restrictions announced by the New Zealand government on Saturday aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus.
New Zealand said those entering the country from midnight Sunday must self-isolate for 14 days. “This development also means the three-match T20I series scheduled for New Zealand cannot proceed...,” New Zealand Cricket said . Bowler Lockie Ferguson spent anxious hours at the team’s Sydney hotel before eventually being cleared of the virus. Ferguson had been placed in isolation for 24 hours.