The IPL seems to have turned its attention – some might say belatedly – to the disaster unfolding outside its biosecure bubble, with Delhi Capitals starting a campaign to encourage those who have survived Covid-19 to donate their plasma to help others in the city suffering from the virus.
Last season’s runners-up took to Twitter to promote #projectplasma – a joint initiative with FeverFM, a radio group with 13 stations that reaches a mainly youthful audience of about 18 million people.
When someone contracts Covid they produce antibodies in their plasma, one of the main constituents of blood – and the theory is that by transferring plasma from those who have survived to those who are ill will help them overcome the disease.
The FeverFM team is taking names of those willing to help and matching them with patients around the city.
Elsewhere, star names in the Royal Challengers Bangalore squad – among them Virat Kohli and Glenn Maxwell – have released a video urging people to follow the guidelines from medical authorities to keep themselves safe.
The tournament is continuing for the time being despite the fact that three Australian players – Adam Zampa, Andrew Tye and Kane Richardson – have pulled out to return home. Their departure came as Ravi Ashwin, the Delhi spinner, tweeted that he was leaving the bubble for the time being to support his family in the face of the crisis.
There were reports last week that MS Dhoni’s parents had been taken to hospital with the virus although a subsequent posting on social media from the family said that they were “stable”.
The threat to the tournament will grow if more overseas players and star names, concerned about their relatives, decide that they can no longer concentrate on cricket.
However, Pat Cummins, the Kolkata Knight Riders allrounder, released a statement saying that he had been advised by the Indian government that “playing the tournament while the population is in lockdown provides a few hours of joy and respite each day at an otherwise difficult time for the country”.
That was a sentiment echoed by Sourav Ganguly, the BCCI president, whose only comment on the situation was to day: “So far it is going ahead as per schedule.”
Cummins said that he had donated $50,000 to a fund to raise money to purchase stocks of oxygen, which are desperately low in hospital -contributing to the alarming death rate – and urged his fellow IPL players to follow his example.
The position of English players was unclear although the ECB said it was “providing advice to those who need it”. Rajasthan Royals have lost three of their four English stars – to injury in the case of Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer, and bubble fatigue in the case of Liam Livingstone.
Livingstone had not been picked in any of the first four Rajasthan matches before deciding to leave and three more of the 11 English players remaining at the IPL have yet to start a game: Dawid Malan, at Punjab Kings, Sam Billings, at Delhi, and Jason Roy, with Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Two of the 11 were in opposition yesterday when the Knight Riders, captained by Eoin Morgan but bottom of the table at toss time, took on Punjab Kings, for whom Chris Jordan was selected.
Eoin Morgan’s reputation as a white-ball Svengali has suffered a bit of a blow after taking charge of the Kolkata franchise for a full season for the first time, losing four of his first five matches. That included one that brought him a rasping condemnation from a former KKR IPL title-winning captain in Gautum Gambhir, who labelled aspects of his leadership “ridiculous” and “the worst I have seen”.
But the England limited-overs leader may have repaired something of that reputation with what was eventually a comfortable win in the first game staged in Ahmedabad.
Having restricted the Kings to 123 for nine, for whom Jordan’s 30 in 18 balls was the most impressive display, they found themselves 17 for three after the first three overs of their reply, Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana and Sunil Narine – out to a brilliant running catch by Ravi Bishnoi – falling cheaply.
However, a stand of 66 in eight overs between Morgan and Rahul Tripathi put them back on track. Although Tripathi holed out after an impressive 41, and Andre Russell was run out for 10, Morgan stayed solid, discovering some late fluency with successive drives for four and six off the off spin of Deepak Hooda, to see his time home by five wickets and 3.2 overs to spare.
The winning runs were struck by Dinesh Karthik, denying Morgan, who finished unbeaten on 47, his half-century. And while his innings took him past 7,000 T20 runs, the Knight Riders skipper will no doubt be more happy with the two points, built on impressive bowling from Prasidh Krishna, who took three for 30, two wickets each for Narine and Cummins, and the significant economy of Shivam Mavi, who opened the bowling and finished with one for 13 from his four.
Morgan was delighted to hear that his team had moved up to fifth in the table but alluded to the wider concerns when interviewed afterwards, saying that being in the bubble, and movement around the country, was “challenging and does need to be managed”.
“We know the horrific nature of what’s happening outside,” he added. “We try and lend our support and we’ve seen how devastating it is not only in India but around the world.”