CHENNAI: On a day the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak as a global pandemic, the Indian Premier League (IPL), the India Open (badminton), and the fate of several Indian athletes training or competing abroad hung in the balance. In a late development, a day ahead of the first ODI between India and South Africa, the sports ministry advised the Himachal Pradesh government to avoid public gathering. The opening ODI could be a first-ever behind-closed-doors affair in recent times in Indian sport.
A travel advisory from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) effectively suspended most categories of visas — including the B-Sports visas — as the country prepares to go into shutdown mode from March 13 to April 15. The B-Sports visa, a category under business visa, is what foreign players are issued, enabling them to play in the IPL. However, at least one IPL franchise believes not all players would be under B-Sports visas.
Clause XV under ‘Business Visa’ reads: “Foreign nationals who are engaged in commercial sports events in India on contract (including coaches) like Indian Premier League, Indian Soccer League, etc. with remuneration (...) may be granted ‘B-Sports’ Visa...,” on the MHA website. Per a MoHFW diktat, no exemptions have been made for people wanting to enter India through this class of visas. “All existing visas, except diplomatic, official, UN/International Organisations, employment, project visas, stand suspended till 15th April 2020,” it read.
The sports ministry has also advised Uttar Pradesh to go ahead with the second ODI but added that they should avoid public gathering. The Lucknow ODI is slated to be on March 15. When contacted, sports secretary Radhey Shyam Julaniya said he spoke to the chief secretaries of Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh and advised them to adhere to the guidelines of the health ministry. “I have spoken to both the chief secretaries and I hope they will follow,” he said. “The chief secretaries have been notified.”
The BCCI also has been advised of the same. However, a top BCCI official said they had not got the communication till 11.30 pm. The BCCI has already ensured preventive measures like ensuring abundance of hand sanitizers in prominent places, cleaning rest rooms in the stadium and avoiding of close contact.
Question mark over boxers The fate of the boxers who were training in Italy before competing at the Asia/Oceania Olympic qualifiers in Jordan too hang in balance. Since the women’s team was training in Italy from February 17 and the men’s team from February 20, under the new travel advisory they will have to go on self-quarantine on return to India. Boxing Federation of India executive director RK Sacheti said that the federation will ensure no one suffers. “If it is self quarantine then it should not be a problem. We can either ask them to quarantine themselves at home or we will put them up somewhere together. We will take a decision soon.” Fortunately, women’s boxing’s performance director Raffale Bergamasco is from Italy and holds an employment visa.