The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) voted to postpone the Indian Premier League on Tuesday as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage throughout the country.
India recently passed 20 million total coronavirus cases, with the country averaging more than 325,000 new cases per day over the last week, according to data collected by The New York Times.
COVID-19 surges in India
India had largely avoided the worst of the coronavirus pandemic until recent weeks. More than 222,000 people have died from COVID-19 in India, with the country averaging about 3,000 deaths in recent days.
UPDATE: The Indian Premier League Governing Council (IPL GC) and Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in an emergency meeting has unanimously decided to postpone IPL 2021 season with immediate effect.
— IndianPremierLeague (@IPL) May 4, 2021
Despite those numbers, the IPL continued to operate against the backdrop of the pandemic. However, three teams – the Chennai Super Kings, Kolkata Knight Riders, and Sunrises Hyderabad – recently went into isolation after players and staff tested positive for COVID-19.
“The BCCI does not want to compromise on the safety of the players, support staff and the other participants involved in organizing the IPL,” the board wrote in a statement on the IPL website. “This decision was taken keeping the safety, health and wellbeing of all the stakeholders in mind.”
The IPL had about a month remaining in its schedule. The league expected to play its final on May 30 in Ahmedabad.
“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 statement read. “The BCCI will do everything in its powers to arrange for the secure and safe passage of all the participants in IPL 2021.”
Foreign IPL players face travel restrictions
However, some players may not be able to get back home so easily. While IPL rosters consist mainly of Indian players, many foreign stars also compete in the Twenty20 cricket league. Reuters reported that as many as 57 foreign players find themselves stuck in India, along with a number of coaches and other staff members.
That’s a particular problem for Australian players and staff. Australia has imposed a travel ban until at least May 15. Australians who attempt to return home from abroad face fines or potential jail time, and Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has said there will be no exception for cricketers. The Guardian reports that there are 30 Australian players and staff in the IPL.
The Indian public had been growing angry with the IPL for taking up testing and medical resources that are limited throughout the country.
“There was a complete disconnect between what was happening inside the IPL and going out on their world feed, and what was happening outside the stadiums across India,” Indian cricket commentator Sharda Ugra told The Guardian. “There was no acknowledgement of the growing numbers of dead; India hasn’t lost so many people since independence and yet there was huge dissonance from the IPL.”
Despite that criticism and the scope of the COVID-19 pandemic in India, IPL chairman Brijesh Patel says the league will still attempt to finish the season at some point in the future.
“We are looking for another window, Patel told Reuters. “Right now we can’t say when we can reschedule it.”