The bubble is safe. The bubble will not burst.
This seemed to be the mantra of the Indian Cricket Council bigwigs whenever they were asked about the hosting of the Indian Premier League (IPL) amid the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
Even as millions of people were affected and the death toll increased day by day, most officials at the Cricket Control Council of India (BCCI) were convinced that nothing could stop them from completing the tournament.
Then their worst fears came true.
Despite the much publicized bio-bubble in place and strict protocols, the cracks became visible as several players and support staff tested positive for the virus, ultimately forcing the world’s richest cricket council to abruptly interrupt the 2021. edition of the tournament.
And with the bubble, the false sense of security was also shattered.
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Shreevats Goswami, who has been with the IPL for over a decade, says the locker room panic was unprecedented. Reports that a Sunrisers Hyderabad teammate had tested positive – he turned out to be Wriddhiman Saha – also sent shockwaves through the other franchises.
As team management initially tried to get the situation under control, overseas players became concerned, with most of them wanting to leave the bubble immediately. “It was difficult for them. The fact that most countries have imposed travel bans from India has made it difficult, ”said Goswami, who plays for Sunrisers. “Maybe if I had been in their shoes, I would have felt the same. It is not easy to stay away from home in the dark. “
A day earlier, Kolkata Knight Riders players Varun Chakravarthy and Sandeep Warrier had tested positive for the virus. “Until then, we thought maybe it was a one-time incident, but when the news from Saha came, there was panic. The players were asked to go back to their rooms and the tests were done quickly, ”Goswami said.
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A foreign player, who doesn’t want to be named, said things were indeed a little scary. “With so many reports to come, we weren’t sure exactly what was going on as the bubble exited. We knew things weren’t looking great, but we weren’t sure what to do next, ”said the player. “After the tournament was postponed, the real challenge began. Now the question was: how to get home? It was difficult to control his emotions.
The BCCI did its best to put out the blaze – assuring franchises that the leaks were plugged and the bubble was still safe – but things got out of hand as new cases surfaced within hours.
Players and franchises still don’t have a definitive answer as to what went wrong, but fear things will go haywire once they start traveling before the rematch.
“It’s hard to answer what led to this. Maybe there were too many sites, maybe the tests should have been reconsidered, ”said Ness Wadia, co-owner of Punjab Kings.
At a time when most major Indian cities are seeing an upsurge in Covid cases, BCCI has implemented its plan to play the tournament at six venues, with even its chairman, Sourav Ganguly, saying Sports star that the “players are safe in the bubble” and that the tournament “will go as planned”.
But many franchise and board members believe the decision to host matches between the venues may have been the reason for the disaster.
While the teams felt safe in Mumbai and Chennai, once the IPL caravan moved to Ahmedabad and New Delhi, there were challenges. Even though state associations claimed that there had been no nonsense, loopholes remained. “At least two weeks before the Ahmedabad stage, we quarantined all of our gardeners and other staff and they were tested every other day. Everything was foolproof, ”said Gujarat Cricket Association secretary Anil Patel.
If everything was “infallible,” what led to the fall?
“We will look at what went wrong and see how we can improve and do better in the years to come,” said Arun Dhumal, BCCI Treasurer. Sports star, quickly remembering the success he had in the home series against England – which ended a week before the IPL.
“We have to remember that we were able to host the English series over a period of two and a half months without a hitch,” Dhumal added.
The India-England series was a bilateral affair with just three venues hosting the matches. In the case of the IPL, the board may have gotten a bit too ambitious and moved forward with six venues – a move that clearly backfired and ultimately led to the hiatus. .
The postponement of the tournament means a loss of around ₹ 2,000 crore for BCCI. “Since we had to postpone it in the middle of the tournament, that would be the estimated loss for now,” said the treasurer, hoping the board can find a suitable window later this year to end the league.
“We have to see our FTP (International Cricket Council Future Touring Program) and keep in mind that the T20 World Cup is due later this year. In between that we will work out a schedule and see how to go about it, ”said Dhumal, indicating that it is too early to say when and where the rest of the tournament could take place.
While reports suggest some English county clubs have shown an interest in hosting the IPL, BCCI Chairman Ganguly has clarified that the tournament will not be held in the UK or even India.
On the contrary, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are the favorites to host the event in the window from September to October.
As India struggles in the middle of the second wave, there is a good chance that the T20 World Cup will also be transferred to the United Arab Emirates – even if the ICC is expected to make a decision in June-July.
“I think the IPL will definitely come back sooner or later. If you look at the cricket window – (there is a time slot) September before the T20 World Cup. It could happen, ”Wadia said, admitting the UAE would be a good backup.
While BCCI has yet to calculate the actual loss from the season’s suspension, franchises too will soon hit the drawing board to determine theirs. But if the tournament does not take place this year, there will be a ripple effect on the stakeholders.
Star sports, which won the tournament’s TV and digital rights for 2018-2022 for ₹ 16,347.5 crore, is expected to pay BCCI ₹ 54.4 crore per game.
With only 29 games staged so far, and if the tournament is canned for the year, the board stands to lose nearly ₹ 1,600 crore for the remaining 31 games. It would be a similar story for the title sponsors Vivo and other partners.
“This means that the board will earn half of the total amount committed for this season. Since the franchises are working on a 50/50 revenue sharing formula with the BCCI, it will only pay 50% of the revenue generated by the central pool. Things will therefore become difficult both for the BCCI and for the franchises ”, underlined a member of the board of directors.
Dhumal, however, prefers to wait before jumping the gun on the actual loss.
Ganguly says rest of 2021 IPL cannot happen in India
Much of the cricket fraternity believes that being “too adventurous” has in fact led to a loss of face for the BCCI. After successfully hosting the tournament in the UAE last year, he should have been “extremely careful” before bringing the tournament to India.
But in their defense, council officials say that after successfully hosting the bilateral series against England, there was virtually no reason to panic. “The tournament schedule was planned well in advance, and at that point the situation was much better,” said Dhumal.
But then, as centers like Mumbai and Delhi announced lockdowns, shouldn’t the board have been thinking of alternatives? A board member explained that after the board decided not to transfer the tournament to the United Arab Emirates, there was not much scope to change things. “Once the tournament started successfully, there was no reason to panic. We successfully completed the Mumbai and Chennai stage so we never really thought things were going to get out of hand, ”he said.
“It’s hard to answer what led to this. Maybe there were too many sites, maybe the tests should have been reconsidered, ”says Ness Wadia, co-owner of the Punjab Kings. – Vivek Bendre
But did complacency creep in?
If not, why didn’t the board of directors retain the services of British company Restrata, the company that successfully led the tournament in the United Arab Emirates, and instead opted for local options?
The official version is that Restrata was not considered because it did not have a strong presence in India. But then, was the bubble really as infallible as it was claimed?
“There were no breaches on the part of the players. But when you host a tournament in multiple cities, it’s impossible to keep everything under control. It’s too early to find out what went wrong, but you need to check if everyone has followed the protocols, ”the board insider said.
While the postponement may result in India’s withdrawal from the T20 World Cup, Dhumal does not believe it will impact the IPL brand.
“Until the end of the tournament, the number of viewers was quite high. In addition, you have to understand that we had to postpone the tournament due to the situation, and at that time, the safety of the players and everyone involved in the tournament was paramount ”, declared the treasurer of the BCCI , hoping that would not have been the case. longer term impact.
While the board took a bold step by hosting the tournament amid the pandemic and trying to earn brownie points ahead of the T20 World Cup, perhaps they should have been much more careful about safety and violations, perhaps by learning from the Pakistani Super League, which had to be postponed for similar reasons.
But then the council lived in a bubble. And that bubble burst.