CHENNAI: Even as the BCCI suspended the upcoming edition of IPL till April 15, following directives from the Central government, the franchises are bracing up for the worst-case scenario. That is the tournament going off the April-May calendar altogether.
While the BCCI is looking to start the tournament tentatively around April 16 to 21 if the situation improves, much will depend on the central government lifting the visa restrictions and whether overseas players will get permission from their respective boards to travel to India.
The BCCI office-bearers met on Friday morning and after lengthy discussions decided to suspend the league as advised by the Ministry of External Affairs. With more and more state governments deciding against public gatherings, the BCCI was prepared to host IPL matches behind close doors.
Behind the scenes, the top brass is understood to have reached out to the centre with regards to granting visas to players who fall under Business Class (Sports) category. But once their request was rejected keeping in mind the wider picture and the franchises being firm on not playing without overseas players, the BCCI eventually suspended the league till April 15.
There will be a meeting of the IPL Governing Council on Saturday. “It’s about minimising damage now. At Saturday’s meeting we have to see what happens after the visa ban is lifted. It’s possible that there would still be restrictions on visas for some countries. If players from one country or two don’t get visas, we have to see how or whether it affects the teams. We also have to see if matches will be behind closed doors or not. Planning for a packed stand and planning for an empty stadium will be different,” BCCI treasurer Arun Dhumal told this daily.
While suspending the league till April 15 is sure to burn the pockets of the franchises, they seem to have told the BCCI it is better than playing with only Indian players, as several sponsorship deals have to be re-negotiated. The broadcaster being on the same page as the franchises made the BCCI’s job easier.
The franchises are now busy re-drawing pre-season plans. Chennai Super Kings, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kolkata Knight Riders were among those having camps with Indian players and they have suspended them until further notice. They are now facing a logistics nightmare with regards to travel and hotel bookings.
Starting the league now depends on whether the centre relaxes the visa restrictions. The BCCI is aware that visa restrictions could continue for certain countries depending on the virus outbreak and even venues have to be changed if the situation worsens across India. As of now, Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru are ruled out and BCCI can’t finalise a venue anytime soon because of the uncertainty around.
If the tournament happens behind closed doors, the BCCI will explore the possibility of limiting the number of venues as it would make things easier. Ideally, it would look at cities with no reported cases. And with regards to participation of overseas players, the complications could be more than what the BCCI is expecting.
United Kingdom had 798 reported cases and Australia 199 till Friday evening and there are indications that players from England might not take part in the IPL. New Zealand has left it to the players to decide.
“Some teams will have more players from these countries and it will create an imbalance. There won’t be a level playing field. This also has to be factored in. Hopefully, by April the situation improves. Else, there is no guarantee the IPL will go ahead,” a board official said.