Future of IPL thrown into doubt after Covid finds its way inside the bubbles

It was a day of dramatic developments as the IPL came face to face with live coronavirus cases for the first time, leading to the postponement of one match and casting doubt over the validity of the rest of the tournament.

Varun Chakravarthy, the leg spinner, and seamer Sandeep Warrier, both of the Kolkata Knight Riders, had to go into isolation after testing positive for Covid, causing their match in Ahmedabad against Royal Challengers Bangalore to be rescheduled.

Chakravarthy was reported to have visited hospital through the so-called safe “green channel” to have a scan on an injured shoulder and there was conjecture that he had picked up the illness there. Previously, medical chiefs had claimed that any injured player would be treated in a “Covid-free” hospital.

The news was released on the IPL’s official website in a very brief statement in which organisers were again forced to try to quell fears of those still in the bubble, saying that KKR had now moved to a regime of daily testing to identify any further cases.

The medical team, it said, were also involved in tracing the closest contacts in the past 48 hours of both players affected.

The BCCI gave no direct comment on the fate of the tournament but wrote to the franchises again to say it was “monitoring the situation” but with news from Delhi that one of three backroom staff with the Chennai Super Kings who had also tested positive had been interacting closely with his own players and members of Mumbai Indians – who met on Saturday – further disruption could not be ruled out.

News18.com reported that L Balaji, the CSK bowling coach who has contracted the virus, was seen in his team’s dugout during the game and also mingling with Mumbai players afterwards. Protocols say that anyone who has come into close contact with a person testing positive has to isolate for six days.

With games every day, this could throw the tournament into complete chaos.

A senior BCCI source told the Press Trust of India: “A lot of people start showing symptoms from the fifth or sixth day. There are discussions whether it is safe to go ahead with the next two games in Delhi. It is prudent if MI’s match against the Sunrisers tomorrow and CSK’s game against Rajasthan Royals on Wednesday are rescheduled.”

The Delhi leg is due to end on May 8, with the bubbles moving on to Bangalore, where politicians have already called on the tournament to be cancelled, and Kolkata. The teams are due to stay there until May 25 before the top four move back to Ahmedabad for the qualifiers, eliminators and the final.

There are still 11 English players at the tournament and they have been told by the ECB that is up to them to decide whether they should stay or leave, although any choosing to leave would face a 10-day quarantine on arrival at home. Cricket South Africa has issued similar advice to its own players.

The situation is less clear for Australian players, commentators and officials. Paul Reiffel, the umpire, tried to return home via Doha on Saturday and was blocked, returning to the competition. Australians trying to use that route were later warned by their own government that they could face a fine or jail if they did that.

Commentator Michael Slater, meanwhile, launched a blistering broadside at the Australian authorities, which have cancelled all flights between the countries until May 15 at the earliest and failed to commit to any charters.

“If our government cared for the safety of Aussies they would allow us to get home,” he wrote on Twitter after reportedly fleeing to the Maldives.

“It’s a disgrace. Blood on your hands PM. How dare you treat us like this?

“How about you sort out quarantine system? I had government permission to work on the IPL but I now have government neglect.”

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WT20 2024
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