There is never a dull moment with the ECL… and this might be the most bonkers one yet!
The ongoing edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) is dividing opinion. India, sadly, is battling a severe wave of COVID-19 infections whereby the daily rates of infections have now crossed well over 300,000.
Calls are growing louder that the BCCI is “tone deaf”, undertaking a tournament purely for financial reasons as the nation’s health system is severely stricken by the weight of India’s health crisis.
Also, the criticism is growing that the IPL, conducted in a bio-secure bubble, is completely oblivious to what’s happening outside of it.
On the other side of the coin, many argue that sport – in this instance, IPL – provides much-needed relief and distraction from the doom and gloom of a raging pandemic. Thanks to the IPL, cricket fans in India can have something to look forward to each day.
There are certainly cases for both arguments. But, no matter your stance, one thing is certain; the ICC need to start looking at protecting the T20 World Cup, which is scheduled to take place in India in October-November this year.
In fact, T20 International’s showpiece tournament has already been postponed once, as Australia were meant to host the event in October-November 2020.
Australia’s edition was moved to 2022, with India’s, originally pencilled in for 2022, moved to this year. This IPL was touted as a ‘trial run’, where the tournament would take place in a strict bio-secure bubble to show that India is ready to host large sporting tournaments.
However, India’s situation, just six months out from the tournament, is surely untenable for a major sporting event.
The risk for players, staff and all involved is there, even in a strict bio-secure bubble. This is especially the case when you consider flying 15 touring nations to India amid this pandemic, which looks completely unrealistic at this stage.
And, given all the logistics and planning involved, the ICC need to make a call sooner rather than later to get the tournament hosted in Australia, where the COVID-19 situation is largely under control.
Also, for athletes, the situation in India involves more than just staying safe within the nation itself. It is also the wonder – and fear – of actually being able to get back home with governments of other nations wary of opening the borders to those arriving from India.
Andrew Tye over the weekend made the decision to leave the IPL, followed quickly by fellow Australians Kane Richardson and Adam Zampa.
Ravichandran Ashwin, who is one of India’s greatest spinners, has also taken a break from the tournament to support his family during India’s health crisis.
More players are expected to follow, as Delhi Capitals coach Ricky Ponting continues to urge his players to talk about the “grim” situation outside of the IPL’s bio-secure bubble.
One question stems from this. How can a T20 World Cup – a showpiece global event in cricket – be held in such circumstances? With players and staff looking to avoid being caught in the middle of a raging pandemic, how can we still be thinking of hosting a showpiece tournament where hosting fans would be as risky as it is ridiculous?
Australia is fortunate to now being able to conduct its sporting events, including AFL and NRL with crowds. Imagine a situation where a T20 World Cup can be held with crowds, giving players of all nations the chance to put their name up in lights.
Imagine a situation where players can not only feel safer, but they can have less worries about being able to travel back home once the tournament is over.
The ICC, six months out from the tournament, can’t only imagine. Hosting the tournament in India surely brings in great financial rewards, but there are bigger things at play here.
India and the BCCI is an all-conquering force in world cricket, but what this IPL is telling us is that sport in India right now is neither feasible nor sustainable, especially when you consider many of the world’s leading cricketers have been in tight bubbles regularly for nearly a year.
Time for the ICC to act.