The Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021 came to an abrupt halt on Tuesday (May 4) after the number of COVID-19 cases across different camps soared. The IPL’s bio-bubble was breached earlier this week when Kolkata Knight Riders’ Varun Chakravarthy and Sandeep Warrier tested positive for the virus.
The latest development to trigger a total rethink on the tournament was the positive COVID-19 test result of Sunrisers Hyderabad’s Wriddhiman Saha and Delhi Capitals’ Amit Mishra.
Even the Governing Council (GC) of the IPL saw varying opinions with at least one prominent member of the council wanting to continue with the league. But in the end, Jay Shah, secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) put his foot down and insisted on cancellation.
Just like last year, mega-rich cricket body had little option but to suspend the league as the teams had to go into isolation as per the rules. Last year as well, the BCCI was forced to suspend IPL but it was well before the tournament had started.
While many hoped UAE to stage the league again, the BCCI brought the league back to the country. India had successfully hosted England in a full-fledged series in February-March and the BCCI was hoping to replicate its success in IPL as well. However, that didn’t happen.
So was that the final call for the BCCI or could they have retorted to other options before the suspension?
Moreover, the suspension of IPL will raise doubts over India hosting the T20 World Cup. The ICC event could be shifted to UAE if the COVID-19 situation doesn’t improve in India.
IPL suspension: The players’ take
There are contrasting views on whether the IPL should’ve continued amid the raging second COVID wave in India.
Although the frenzied fans are the soul of the IPL, it is the players who run the show. When Australian Adam Zampa quit the IPL last week, he said it was the “most vulnerable” bio-bubble he has been part of and the tournament should have been held in UAE, like last year.
Just for the record, the players are not stupid nor insensitive. They would have been fully aware of what has been going on with the COVID situation in the country. They would have seen on their TVs people pleading for hospital beds and oxygen. They would have seen unused ambulances waiting outside cricket grounds and wondered whether it was right for them to carry on playing. And they would have been uncomfortable.
It has been unedifying at times watching this tournament when people are dying just up the road from the stadiums, and the players couldn’t have turned a blind eye to that.
Clearly, the gravity of the situation rightly called for the postponement of the IPL.
IPL suspension: BCCI and the money
Let us not have any illusions here. IPL suspension was always going to have a domino effect.
The world’s richest cricket board – Board of Control for Cricket in India – stands to lose over Rs 2000 crore of the broadcast and sponsorship money earmarked for this year’s Indian Premier League which was indefinitely postponed. The 52-day 60-match tournament would have concluded in Ahmedabad on May 30. However, only 24 days of cricket was possible with 29 completed games before the virus halted proceedings.
The biggest money-spinner for the BCCI is the TV money they get from the official broadcasters, Star Sports. Star has a five-year contract worth Rs 16,347 crore which is Rs 3269.4 crore per year. If there are 60 games in a season, the per-match valuation comes to approximately Rs 54.5 crore. If Star pays per match, then the amount for 29 matches would be Rs 1580 crore approximately out of what would have been Rs 3270 crore for a full tournament. This means a loss of Rs 1,690 crore for the Board.