COVID-19 effect: India’s cricket schedule thrown haywire

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It is generally acknowledged that the Indian cricket calendar is the busiest of all, and for good reasons too. 

In the course of a year, India, being one of the top teams, is pitted against the other top guns in international cricket in full series (one comprising Test, ODI and Twenty 20 matches).

Not to mention, the Indian Premier League (IPL), which features all the top Indian and international stars in the game.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic and the eventual lockdown put a stop to all cricketing activities in the country and threw our tour plans and schedules haywire.

Series cancelled

With the cricketers forced indoors as the contagion extended its footprint across the country, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had little option but to put out a statement saying the IPL stands suspended pending review of the COVID-19 situation, cancelling the series against South Africa and the tour of Zimbabwe.

India’s limited overs tour of Sri Lanka, featuring three ODIs and three Twenty 20 internationals, was also called off in the wake of rising COVID-19 cases. Though the dates hadn’t been finalised, the series was part of India’s cricketing schedule.

BCCI treasurer Arun Dhumal had been quoted as saying at the time, “It is not possible to go ahead with the tour in June-July and we have conveyed it to the Sri Lankan board. However, we remain committed to the series (at a later date).”

The Indian team members are sorely short of match practice as they haven’t been training outdoors due to the pandemic.

“The team is out of practice and we are not unsure when international restrictions would be lifted. So, it wasn’t possible (to go ahead with the tour) in June-July,” Dhumal was quoted as saying.

Though the lockdown has been partly lifted in states, there hasn’t been a significant improvement in the overall COVID-19 situation to warrant free movement. Again, while domestic air services have resumed, international air travel remains suspended. Hence, our cricket bosses can’t clear overseas tours till normal air travel is restored.

Preparatory camp delayed

What has now transpired is that the national camp which the BCCI had planned for all centrally-contracted cricketers in June-July, has been delayed. The decision is hardly a surprise as domestic flight schedules have been disrupted and hospitality is a concern.

However, in a silver lining of sorts, the cricket officials expect “things to change by the first week of August”, if the COVID-19 cases go down in Bengaluru, which is home to the National Cricket Academy (NCA) where the camp is scheduled. It is also learnt that a alternative plan to hold the camp at the picturesque Dharamshala also had to be shelved due to logistical concerns.

What’s further being said that if the IPL were to go ahead in the next couple of months or so, the players would have to report to their respective franchises 21 days before the tournament. And, that would put a further question mark on the national camp.

Again, if the IPL is scheduled later this year, without spectators, the organisers would rely solely on prime time television viewing to make up for the losses incurred because of lack of ticket sales. And the premier domestic tournament could even overlap with the India-Australia series in December, if it stretches long enough.

Even, BCCI president Sourav Ganguly was recently quoted as saying that he would prefer a “shorter quarantine period” ahead of the India-Australia series. “We don’t want (our) players to go that far and sit in hotel rooms for two weeks,” Dada was quoted as saying recently.

While cricket fanatics would have to wait a while for Indian cricketers to return to action, it’s worth it as it’s important to ensure that resumption in cricket poses no danger to their health.

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