COVID downs IPL league suspended after multiple cases BCCI assures safe return to foreign players

(Eds: Adding fresh inputs)
     New Delhi, May 4 (PTI) A barrage of COVID-19 cases forced the IPL's indefinite suspension on Tuesday, a move that was welcomed by the franchises even as the league's jittery foreign recruits waited for BCCI's plan of action to ensure their return amid some strict travel restrictions.
     The decision to postpone the league was announced after SunRisers Hyderabad batsman Wriddhiman Saha and Delhi Capitals spinner Amit Mishra joined the infected players' list, which already had Kolkata Knight Riders' Varun Chakravarthy and Sandeep Warrier.
     Chennai Super Kings' bowling coach L Balaji was among the prominent non-playing staff to test positive.
     "The Indian Premier League Governing Council and BCCI in an emergency meeting has unanimously decided to postpone IPL 2021 season, with immediate effect," a statement from the IPL read after the development was confirmed by its chairman Brijesh Patel to PTI.
     "The BCCI does not want to compromise on the safety of the players, support staff and the other participants involved in organising the IPL. This decision was taken keeping the safety, health and well-being of all the stakeholders in mind," it added.
     Hours after the postponement, Chennai Super Kings batting coach Michael Hussey also tested positive for the dreaded virus.
     The IPL said BCCI will do all it can to ensure that players in the event get back to their homes safely.
     IPL features cricketers from England (11), Australia (14), South Africa (11) and New Zealand (10) among other countries. The event also featured nine West Indians, three Afghans and two players from Bangladesh. Several former foreign players, especially from Australia, were also a part of the support staffs and commentary teams.
     "These are difficult times, especially in India and while we have tried to bring in some positivity and cheer, however, it is imperative that the tournament is now suspended and everyone goes back to their families and loved ones in these trying times," the IPL stated.
     "The BCCI will do everything in its powers to arrange for the secure and safe passage of all the participants in IPL 2021."
     The cricket boards of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa backed the decision and expressed confidence in BCCI's planning for their players' safe return. But Australia made it clear that it won't seek exemption from the travel ban which is in place till May 15 for flights from India.
     "Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers Association respect the decision of the Australian Government to pause travel from India until at least May 15 and will not seek exemptions," a joint release from CA and ACA stated.
     The Board, apart from mulling the way forward, was also counting its losses, which could run into Rs 2200 crore, according to a senior official.
     The 52-day 60-match tournament would have concluded in Ahmedabad on May 30. However, only 24 days of cricket was possible with 29 completed games before the virus halted proceedings.
     "We would be losing anything between Rs 2000 to Rs 2500 crore for the midway postponement of this season. I would say something in the range of Rs 2200 crore will be closer to accurate estimation," the BCCI official said.
     The tournament began on April 9 and ran smoothly before KKR's COVID-19 cases caused the initial panic on Monday.
     "...we will take stock if we can find a suitable window later during the year. It could be September but these are all speculations. As of now we are not conducting it any further," BCCI vice-president Rajiv Shukla told PTI.
     The 2020 IPL was also held in a bio-secure bubble in the UAE and at that time, infections were only reported before the start of the event.
     India is currently recording over 3 lakh cases everyday and more than 3,000 daily deaths.
     The explosion of cases has severely burdened the country's healthcare facilities causing an acute shortage of oxygen, hospital beds and crucial medicines.
     The IPL was being staged across six venues in a caravan model where only two venues were being put to use at one go.
     At the time of suspension, matches were being held in Ahmedabad and Delhi and the league was due to move to Bengaluru and Kolkata next week.
     Just days before this suspension three Australian players -- Adam Zampa, Kane Richardson and Andre Tye -- had left the left the league citing pandemic concerns.
     Senior Indian off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin was also forced to withdraw after several members of his family, including his wife, children and parents, tested positive for the virus. PTI KHS/BS PM AH

(This story has not been edited by THE WEEK and is auto-generated from PTI)