BCCI indefinitely suspends IPL 2021 after more players test positive for COVID-19

The 2021 edition of the Indian Premier League, a money-spinner that enjoys huge viewership, has been suspended. It was being held in Delhi and Ahmedabad, two cities badly hit by the second wave of COVID-19. It was speculated the tournament would shift to Mumbai, but it was stopped before that.

Gaon Connection
| Updated: May 4th, 2021

“The BCCI does not want to compromise on the safety of the players," said IPL in a statement. Photo: @IPL/twitter

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has indefinitely suspended the 2021 Indian Premier League (IPL). There has been fierce criticism over the fact that the cricket tournament was being conducted at a time when those infected with COVID-19 in the national capital were struggling for oxygen.

Optics aside, the last straw was probably the fact that two players — Varun Chakaravarthy and Sandeep Warrier — belonging to Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), the team co-owned by Shah Rukh Khan, tested positive on May 3, despite being part of a bio-bubble. They were found to be positive in the third round of testing in four days. Their match with Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) was postponed.

Latest news reports said there were positive cases in other teams too. 

Mumbai, a possible venue?

Earlier today, May 4, there was speculation the IPL, now being held in Delhi and Ahmedabad, two cities badly affected by COVID-19, would move in its entirety to Mumbai, BCCI’s home turf. Mumbai saw cases rise dizzyingly some weeks ago before a part-lockdown and curfew saw cases reduce to manageable levels. 

On May 3, Mumbai saw 2,624 new cases and 78 deaths.

This possible decision saw people calling out the BCCI on social media, saying it was unfair to burden the country’s financial capital, just when it was bouncing back from the searing second wave of COVID-19.

IPL statement

In a statement, the IPL said, “The Indian Premier League Governing Council and Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in an emergency meeting have unanimously decided to postpone IPL 2021 season with immediate effect.”

It added: “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.”

These are difficult times, especially in India, and while we have tried to bring some positivity and cheer, it is imperative that the tournament is now suspended and everyone goes back to their families and loved ones in these trying times, the statement added. 

The BCCI also said it would “do everything in its powers to arrange for the secure and safe passage of all the participants”.

While some people felt the IPL was a happy distraction from images of people going about distraught in search of oxygen and life-saving drugs, others felt it was a purely commercial decision that did not factor in people’s emotions.

Some players, including Ravichandran Ashwin of Delhi Capitals, opted out of the tournament mid-way, saying they needed to be with their families during the pandemic. Incidentally, Australian cricketer-turned-commentator Michael Slater launched a scathing attack on his country’s prime minister Scott Morrison for a travel ban on Australians in India. “If our Government cared for the safety of Aussies they would allow us to get home. 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,” he tweeted. Now, it appears he has left the bio-bubble and flown to the Maldives.

Meanwhile, livelaw.in reported that a division Bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Dutta and Justice GS Kulkarni of the Bombay High Court today agreed to consider a plea by Adv Vandana Shah against the CEO and other members of the BCCI for cancellation of Indian Premier League 2021, “keeping in mind the deaths & cases of coronavirus in India during the second COVID wave”. 

The plea also sought to penalise the BCCI for Rs 1000 crore for its “gross mismanagement and negligence” — holding the IPL in the middle of a middle of the COVID pandemic. It wanted the penalty and the IPL profits to be used to help people struggling to find oxygen and medicine.