CHENNAI: Even as April 9, the beginning of the Indian Premier League, fast approaches, focus is back on the rising Covid-19 numbers. It doesn’t help that new infections are rising at an alarming rate in both Mumbai and Chennai, two cities which will host the initial stages of the League. However, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has assured the franchises that there is no cause of concern. It is learnt that over the last 48 hours, few of the franchises have reached out to the BCCI in the wake of recent spike in coronavirus numbers, with Mumbai recording nearly 9,000 cases on Friday.
At present, all the eight teams are stationed in only these two cities. Mumbai Indians, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kolkata Knight Riders are in Chennai, while Chennai Super Kings, Delhi Capitals, Punjab Kings and Rajasthan Royals are based in Mumbai. More than Chennai, which added 1188 Covid patients on Friday, it is Mumbai which is in a spot of bother. However, with Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray not ruling out a lockdown if the situation doesn’t improve, it remains to be seen if Mumbai will remain a host city going forward. But as of Friday evening, the franchises said it is status quo.
All franchises are operating out of a strict bio-bubble with regular Covid-19 tests conducted not just for the teams, but also for the hotel staff among others. It has been close to a week since most of these teams entered a bubble and with no positive cases reported so far, the BCCI believes once the initial two week period is passed successfully, it can pull-off the tournament without any hassle.
“The initial few days are key because that is when there is a chance of someone to contract the virus while travelling. Once they enter the bubble after self-isolation, which is fool-proof — with GPS monitoring systems in place — their safety is taken care. Moreover, we are working with respective state health authorities and since it will be played behind closed doors, there is no need to worry,” a BCCI official said.
Although Wankhede Stadium is hosting all the matches, the Brabourne Stadium and Reliance Stadium in Navi Mumbai are used by the teams for practice. With even those venues operating in a bio-bubble, the franchises aren’t concerned. “The stadium is closed, so we don’t need to worry about any breaches. The BCCI has assured that all the safety protocols are in place,” Chennai Super Kings CEO Kasi Viswanathan told this daily.
Having conducted the previous edition in the UAE, the BCCI believes with proper testing measures, there is no reason to panic, especially given the fact that even those in Zone II and Zone III are being tested regularly. “Even though franchises will be using charter flights for travel, we have instructed them to ensure the pilots, airline crew have two negative Covid results. And they will also have a separate gate for access,” the official added.
Billings excited to be part of Delhi Capitals
MUMBAI: England wicketkeeper-batsman Sam Billings believes that he has improved as a cricketer and is ready to make a difference in his second stint for the Delhi Capitals. “My game has improved a lot since I last played for Delhi. Hopefully, we can kick-on as a group and win the competition this year,” Billings said.
Indians want to play in The Hundred: Morgan
MUMBAI: England’s white ball captain Eoin Morgan, who also leads Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL, claims that a lot of Indian players are interested in being a part of The Hundred league. “Just having conversations out here about ‘The Hundred’, I know that there are Indian cricketers out here who would love to play in The Hundred... ,” Morgan told Sky Sports.
Team watch RCB
13 editions have gone by, and Royal Challengers Bangalore’s hunt for the IPL trophy rumbles onto the 14th edition. Will Virat Kohli & Co finally break their title duck? They are desperate to turn the tables around as their massive overhaul and auction buys suggest — Glenn Maxwell (`14.25 crore) and Kyle Jamieson (`15 crore). The franchise did some smart trade business too, bringing in Daniel Sams and Harshal Patel. Overall, it all depends on how consistent Bangalore can be over the course of the season.
For the past few seasons, RCB’s strength has not changed — the splendid duo of Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers. Irrespective of how things progress, runs from their bat are almost a no-brainer. If these two get their A game together, RCB could well be in for a great season. Kohli comes into the league on the back of some good performances against England. Devdutt Padikkal, who was one of the standout performers last season, scored heavily in the domestic circuit.
There are quite a few. Where is the depth in the batting department? After Padikkal, Kohli and De Villiers, they cannot trust any other batsmen to take up responsibility. Though Maxwell can be dangerous, he has never flourished in the IPL. The story does not end there. After having released Chris Morris, their death bowling is a concern with Navdeep Saini and Mohammed Siraj having been on the receiving end in the past.
Lack of experienced IPL players. It will be a debut season for Finn Allen and Kyle Jamieson, with the latter likely to be under pressure due to his price tag. Even the Indian contingent of Mohammed Azharuddeen, Sachin Baby, Rajat Patidar and Suyash Prabhudessai are not known much in the IPL. Some of the domestic players might get a few games here and there as their squad lacks depth.
SQUAD: Virat Kohli (C), AB de Villiers (wk), Devdutt Padikkal, Glenn Maxwell, Dan Christian, Navdeep Saini, Yuzvendra Chahal, Washington Sundar, Finn Allen, Kane Richardson, Kylie Jamieson, KS Bharat (wk), Pavan Deshpande, Suyash Prabhudessai, Harshal Patel, Mohammed Siraj, Adam Zampa, Daniel Sams, Rajat Patidar, Shahbaz Ahmed, Mohammed Azharuddeen (wk), Sachin Baby.