Like over the past couple of years, Covid cases in the country have spiked this year as well at the time of the start of the Indian Premier League (IPL) and the fact is not lost on the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) which says that it is keeping a close watch on the situation and is prepared for any eventuality.
“Unfortunately, whenever IPL happens, we see a spike in the number of Covid cases. But we are following the situation and keeping an eye,” Arun Dhumal, IPL chairman, told Patriot on Saturday.
Dhumal said he is hopeful that the tournament will not be affected by Covid this time.
“We are hoping that things don’t get worse. Hopefully, given the kind of vaccination that we have had, it is not going to affect the tournament this time around. [But] We are keeping a close watch. We will go as per the government directives also,” he added.
“As of now, hopefully, there is no reason to worry but given the safety and well-being of our players, we will stay vigilant and see what requires to be done. We will definitely do — in terms of precautions that are required,” he said further.
This is the first time in three years that the tournament is being played on home-and-away format with teams returning to travelling to different venues to play the matches after Covid had made that impossible in the last three years.
The entire 2020 edition was played in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) while the latter half of the 2021 edition was also played in UAE after Covid cases emerged midway in various teams’ camps in India. The 2022 edition was played in India but the league matches were confined to only four venues in Maharashtra – three in Mumbai and one in Pune – due to Covid concerns. The four playoffs, including the final, were played in Kolkata and Ahmedabad.
This time, there are 70 league matches played across 12 venues from March 31 to May 21.
Four further matches, of playoffs and final, will be played after that.
Asked if there have been special measures announced by the BCCI for the teams like mandatory checks, social distancing among others, Dhumal said that players and officials are themselves aware of all the precautions.
“Not as of now (mandatory checks, social distancing). Given that people are quite educated about Covid now and given the experiences that they have had over the past two-three years, they are taking precautions themselves. But we will definitely look into whatever is required to be done to safeguard the health and keep the well-being in mind and will definitely take care of that.
“The players haven’t been told [about precautions and conduct]. There has not been any case or concern so far [within the IPL camp]. They are themselves very vigilant and careful about how they need to conduct themselves thanks to previous experience. That is the best thing.”
However, he did admit that the Board is all ready to face any eventuality as they have the experience to fall back on.
“If it (shifting the tournament or restricting it to a few venues) needs to be done, we will take care of that. We have done in the past also,” he added.
“Definitely, in case the situation demands we will look at all the options. Given that many things are happening in the country – G20 [in September], IPL, ODI World Cup [later this year], everybody has to be watchful of the situation and take all the necessary precautions. We just hope that it doesn’t go to the level that it starts forcing to reschedule anything or postpone anything. We are hoping things remain fine.”