The conduct of the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) will have a lot to do with how safe our cricket bosses make it for the franchises and players.
Hosting a tournament on such a grand canvas, and that too off-shore, is a challenge in itself but what has piled on the odds even more is the shadow of coronavirus stalking the event.
Hence, more than arranging the props, bringing in the cheer girls and setting up fan zones et-al, what’s high priority this time for the BCCI is to put together a ‘biosecure bubble’ within which to hold the tournament.
And to that end, the Board has already shared a 16-page SOP (standard operating procedure) document, detailing health protocols, with the franchises to make the IPL safe for the players and support staff.
As per the document, the players would have to abide by a raft of regulations right from the moment they board their chartered flights to the Emirates. Topping the list of protocols is regular testing for novel coronavirus.
The objective is to root out even the slightest risk of asymptomatic spread of COVID-19.
The other major decisions that the BCCI has taken to ensure player safety include separate hotels for each of the franchises and strict enforcement of social distancing in the dressing room.
The Board has also asked the franchises to arrange electronic team sheets and hold their team meetings or strategy sessions on the web space.
It has also been decided that the players won’t be allowed to mingle with teammates till such time they clear three COVID tests.
The franchises have been directed to put together a medical team, which will collate information on the medical history of all the players and support staff from the time the novel coronavirus started spreading globally.
They have also been advised to appoint team doctors whose job it will be to create a biosecure shield for the players and think-tanks.
The franchises have been clearly advised to avoid unnecessary contact with each other and also ensure that the mingling within their squads is kept at a minimum.
The players and support staff have also been asked to undergo tests every fifth day after entering the ‘biosecure bubble’. Only after clearing COVID tests will they be allowed to travel to the Emirates.
The players will be put under mandatory quarantine after checking into their hotels and will have to take three COVID tests in a span of six days.
If a player tests positive before the tournament, he should be asked to go into isolation for 14 days and take medical advice. He would then have to undergo two COVID tests within a span of 24 hours.
Only if both reports return negative will he be allowed to board the flight to the UAE.
After touch-down in the Emirates, all players and support would have to take three COVID tests – on days 1,3 and 6. Only after they come through the tests in flying colours can they enter the ‘biosecure bubble‘. They won’t be allowed to exit the bubble through the length of the tournament.
As per the regulations laid down by the BCCI, at no point of time should there be more than 15 players in the dressing room. Strict social distancing will be the new normal in the bubble.
While players’ families have been allowed to travel along with them, they will also have to abide by all the SOPs that are in place.
Even as the players and franchises are bound by rules, one hopes it doesn’t take away from the competitive edge of the IPL that makes it arguably the best T20 league in the world.