The 2021 edition of the Indian Premier League has been postponed indefinitely due to the country’s coronavirus crisis.
Here, the PA news agency looks at how that happened and what it means.
Exactly what has happened to this year’s IPL?
After an emergency meeting of the IPL’s general council, a unanimous decision was taken on Tuesday to suspend the tournament. The move came after a third of the eight franchises reported positive cases inside their bubble. The idea of a short hiatus before concluding the fixtures in a solitary secure venue such as Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium has not played out, so as it stands exactly half of the 60 scheduled matches remain unfulfilled.
Should the tournament have ended earlier?
Fears over a new wave of Covid-19 were well established when the campaign began last month and the situation has since escalated sharply. Just a few days ago daily infections topped 400,000 confirmed cases, taking the national total past the 20 million mark. On the ground there are over-run hospitals and widespread oxygen shortages, leading to a deeply uncomfortable contrast between the glamour and pizzazz of the matchday presentation. It has seemed an untenable dichotomy for some time but organisers have suggested that by offering evening entertainment to a nation in the grip of a grim lockdown, the players were doing important work.
What does that mean for the England players at the tournament?
There are 11 English representatives still involved – Eoin Morgan, Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jason Roy, Dawid Malan, Sam Billings, Chris Woakes, Chris Jordan, Tom and Sam Curran. They have been offered support and advice by the England and Wales Cricket Board on a daily basis but each has been personally responsible for his own participation. Now the primary concern will be getting home safely.
How will the travel be organised?
The ECB is not obliged to lay on costly charter flights for the players as they have previously done for England tours and, at this stage, are not thought to be looking at that option. The Board of Control for Cricket in India has explicitly committed itself to ensuring safe returns for overseas players and can be expected to work with franchises on repatriation plans. The England players will also be in regular contact between themselves and may even be looking at their own alternatives.
What awaits players on return to England?
With India on the government’s travel red list, current rules require a 10-day solitary quarantine in a mandated hotel. There is no sporting exemption as it stands. A possible alternative would be for players to detour via a so-called ‘green list’ country to see out their quarantine in more pleasant surroundings but, as yet, that list has not been published. For the likes of Buttler, Woakes, Sam Curran, Moeen and Bairstow, an early return could see them freed up to play the first Test of the summer at the start of June – a date they might otherwise have missed due to IPL commitments.
How are Australia dealing with the issue?
Three Australia internationals – Andrew Tye, Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson – opted to head home as the situation worsened and got back before an outright ban on flights from India, and connecting flights, was imposed. It is now a criminal offence to return to Australia until at least May 15, leaving around 40 Australians, from high-profile players such as Steve Smith, David Warner and Pat Cummins to commentators, coaches and support staff, in limbo.
What are the longer-term implications?
The global cricket calendar is jam-packed, so slotting in another 30 games involving squads drawn from multiple countries seems a huge logistical ask. The IPL is often seen as too rich to obey the usual rules, but standing down may be the only practical solution. Casting forward to October and the planned Twenty20 World Cup in India is now a major doubt. The BCCI would be loath to lose the high-profile tournament but hosting it just a few months on from this could prove impossible. The United Arab Emirates, which hosted last year’s IPL behind-closed-doors, stands by.