The last 12-odd months have been extraordinary that continues to be a tumultuous one for one and all. The normal became abnormal and the abnormal became the new normal. For almost a year now, from life to work to everything else took a massive hit due to the Covid-19 and that includes the riches of the Indian Premier League (IPL) as well.
Now that the latest edition of the IPL is less than a week away, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is currently in crisis management after the Corona scare which saw one of the Delhi Capitals players–Axar Patel and ten ground staff at Wankhede stadium testing positive for the deadly virus.
There's no doubt that cricket enthusiasts are keenly awaiting the thrill and excitement the IPL provides, but the second-wave of Covid-19 is likely to ruffle a few feathers.
The BCCI has already stated that at least the initial parts of the upcoming season of IPL would not have any crowd presence in the stadia, however, with support staff and ground staff reporting positive for Covid, the IPL management needs to safeguard the health and well-being of the players first and foremost.
With Mumbai witnessing a huge surge in Covid cases, there's a serious question mark whether the IPL matches at the Wankhede Stadium will proceed as planned. Indore and Hyderabad have been kept as stand by venues for the IPL in case the COVID situation spirals out of control. Mumbai is scheduled to host 10 games of the cash-rich league.
Covid and IPL: Plan B
As far as the logistics go in the IPL, the matches are slated to start at 7.30 PM while the teams leave the stadiums for their respective hotels at 12.30 AM. The night curfew imposed in Maharashtra is thus, likely to affect the IPL staff, broadcast and television crew as well as ground staff's logistics unless the government exempts the IPL from the restrictions. It is also to be noted that most of the ground-staffers, who are are not part of the bio-bubble tend to mingle with players from both sides. It thus increases the risk of IPL players contracting the Covid-19 virus.
BCCI maintains strict bubble norms and the players and team officials are barred from interacting with anyone outside the bubble. Furthermore, the BCCI claims that the ground-staff at all the venues undergo Covid tests on a regular basis, thus ruling out the possibility of players contracting the virus via the support staff.
While some media articles have cited the lockdowns as a concern for the upcoming IPLs, BCCI isn’t convinced - instead, it simply made arrangements to contain the spread of the virus, and made over 200 extra room bookings for stakeholders testing positive during the event.
Covid and IPL: Spinning the money
Let's digest this first. With India staring at the largest surge in Covid numbers since September, why hosting an IPL in such a precarious situation is important to BCCI?
With no spectators allowed to start with, it will be a major TV-viewing experience for India's cricket-loving population and fans across the world. Secondly, the official broadcasters of the IPL are expecting the hype of the upcoming season to match that of last year’s as they are reportedly targeting a staggering amount of 3,200 crores from advertisements this time around. Once
This gives us some insight into the IPL economy - real money comes from all the eyes and heads that are fixated on the screens.
At a time when survival from the deadly Covid pandemic is a priority for many, we are on the cusp of another edition of the IPL. For sure, more than anytime in the near future-the timing and relevance of the IPL will raise questions this time around.
Given the Covid situation, the negativity it spreads and the people's mindset-come April 9, when defending champions Mumbai Indians take on Virat Kohli's Royal Challengers Bangalore at the MA Chidambaram stadium in Chennai, IPL will come up trumps. And that's where its success lies!