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Sports in the times of the coronavirus pandemic is a massive challenge. 2020 was the year of the ICC World T20, the Tokyo Olympics, French Open, Wimbledon and IPL. It was an action-packed year. However, the coronavirus pandemic put a full stop on many events.
Tokyo 2020 was postponed next year, Wimbledon was cancelled, ICC World T20 in Australia postponed to 2022 while several other major events like women’s cricket, NBA and every American sport has been impacted big time due to the pandemic.
Amidst the pandemic, IPL 2020 will be played on September 19. The tournament will be played in three venues, with Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Dubai being the venues. However, the picture is not so rosy in the United Arab Emirates as well. On Sunday, there was a rise of 513 cases, taking the tally of active cases in the country to over 7000.
The IPL 2020 has not been helped by 13 cases of the Chennai Super Kings members, including two players, testing positive for the coronavirus. Now, there is another amber sign of caution. A Delhi Capitals assistant physiotherapist has tested positive for the coronavirus. It is just sheer luck that he did not many any players.
BCCI treading on eggshells
The success of the tournament depends on the enforcement of the bio-bubble protocol. So far, all the cases have been asymptomatic, meaning they have not shown any symptoms whatsoever but they have the capability to transmit the virus.
However, the BCCI have made it clear that any breach of the bio-bubble protocol will be dealt with sternly. One, though, begs to ask the question? What if, god forbid, a player becomes coronapositive during the match? What does the IPL do and what do the broadcasters do?
Recently, an English county cricket match between Gloucestershire and Northamptonshire was abandoned on Sunday, after a non-playing member of Northamptonshire’s squad tested positive for coronavirus. It was the first cricket match abandoned due to the coronavirus. Will the BCCI do the same thing in case such a case pops up? Everybody is certain that no player will get infected during the 53 days in the UAE. If the BCCI stays in this illusion, then the coronavirus can strike without warning.
No IPL franchise or the cricket board can have a back-up plan for the coronavirus because it can be sudden. The fact that the BCCI have managed to build-up a very secure bio-bubble deserves to be commended. Many people might question the rationale of hosting sports at a time of the pandemic when it is at it’s second wave in many places. However, life must go on.
If any match has an instances of the coronavirus, then it will be interesting to see how the franchisees and the broadcasters cope up with the situation. This situation demands the utmost of flexibility and understanding.
The main question is, will the broadcasters have empathy to let go of some crores for the broader safety of the players? Will the BCCI and franchisees be flexible enough to see reason? We will find that out in the next 14 days when Mumbai Indians take on Chennai Super Kings in Abu Dhabi on September 19.