The Board of Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) will be moving heaven and earth to ensure that the 2020 version of the Indian Premier League is played. The world’s biggest domestic cricket tournament contributes in excess of $160million to the Indian economy and the financial ramifications of not staging the cash rich 13th edition of the IPL are obvious. From a purely sporting angle, a cricket mad Indian population, and cricket fans everywhere, could use the escapism that watching their cricket heroes brings.
In a world shrouded with uncertainty, even the powerful BCCI might not get their own way on this one. India has been hit hard by the Covid-19 global pandemic and the IPL was indefinitely postponed from its scheduled March start.
One thing is certain. Sourav Ganguly, the former India captain who took over as President of the BCCI last October, has a lot on his plate. If successful in staging the tournament there is every likelihood that it will look different to what we have enjoyed before.
Where can it take place?
Covid-19 has taken hold of India in the six months since the country reported its first confirmed infection. India has overtaken Russia to record the world’s third largest caseload and the second most populated country on the planet with almost 1.4 billion people, many living in densely crowded cities, there is a significant danger that the effects of the pandemic could get worse before they improve.
The country recorded several record spikes shortly after easing lockdown in June with 742,417 confirmed cases confirmed by 8 July. Scientists are struggling to make accurate predictions with insufficient testing. The official death rate in early July was reported at 20,160 and is the seventh biggest globally but per head of population is remarkably low, leading to condemnation that the real impact is being underreported.
The bottom line – India has not beaten Covid-19 and some experts predict that the country could become the next global hotspot for the virus. Consequently, the BCCI’s hopes of playing this year’s IPL on home soil look very shaky.
The BCCI stated that New Zealand, UAE and Sri Lanka had come forward to host the IPL season if logistical issues in India persist, but New Zealand Cricket have since denied they had made such an offer or been approached as a potential destination.
“Will it be in India or not – if it’s not then we think of going out, but where?,” Ganguly told India Today. “Because going out becomes very expensive for the board, the franchises because of the currency conversion rates. So we are monitoring it and we are very keen to host it. We have our fingers crossed, we don’t want the year 2020 to finish without an IPL.”
When could an IPL be fitted in?
Every country has its Covid challenges and there are only 365 days in a year. The world cricket schedule was hectic even before Covid intervened. India are committed to touring Australia in December and that commitment cannot be shifted and the BCCI are not going to be able to magic an IPL window without major negotiations and / or another event falling by the wayside.
The ICC T20 World Cup is scheduled to be played in Australia between 18 October and 15 November. With all major nations competing, the potential postponement of that International Cricket Council tournament could open an IPL sized window with player availability assured.
The ICC had discussed their ability to safely host a global event this year at a meeting in June, but their decision was delayed as Shashank Manohar resigned as ICC Chairman. But it was reported on 9 July that Cricket Australia had told its players to plan on playing the IPL after their tour of England in September leading to increased speculation that an ICC announcement on the postponement of the 16-team T20 World Cup is imminent.
What will a rescheduled IPL look like?
There are still so many ‘ifs’ in the IPL scenario, but a tournament, whether staged in India or overseas, played in October and November in the T20 World Cup slot, seems like the BCCI’s only chance.
The tournament is likely to be significantly shorter, probably played without fans in stadia and might still get underway without some of the big named players if personal safety concerns persist.
The Covid-19 landscape is fast and fluid and who knows what the world will look like by October, but Ganguly waits for the ICC to give him hope.
“We want IPL to happen because life needs to be back to normal and cricket needs to be back to normal, but we don’t have a decision from the ICC regarding the T20 World Cup,” Ganguly admitted. “But we want to host it, our first priority is India. Whatever time we get, even if we get 35-40 days we will host it.
“If it doesn’t happen in India because of Covid-19 because places like Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai these are big teams in the IPL and at this stage, I don’t think you can put your hand on heart and say that cricket will happen in these places.”
The future of the IPL remains uncertain.
If the World T20 is postponed there will be an IPL this year as the BCCI will find a way of making it happen and they have the muscle and influence to get what they want.
If the World T20 goes ahead, Ganguly’s hopes for IPL 2020 go out of the window.