THE surge in new Covid-19 cases could yet scupper plans to host the Indian Premier League (IPL) in bio-secure bubbles at six venues across the country, starting on Friday (9) in Chennai and climaxing at the world’s largest cricket stadium in Ahmedabad on May 30.
Last year’s delayed tournament was shifted to the United Arab Emirates but the 14th edition returns to India, where the coronavirus situation has worsened significantly in recent weeks.
The Indian cricket board (BCCI), however, is bullish about the chances of pulling it off.
“We did it successfully in Dubai last year. We are confident we are going to do it again this time,” BCCI chief Sourav Ganguly told Reuters.
Champions Mumbai Indians, captained by Rohit Sharma, and Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore get the eight-team tournament going at M A Chidambaram Stadium on Friday.
Both teams have already been hit by Covid-19 cases in their camps, however, raising questions over the effectiveness of the health protections afforded to the cricketers by the bubble.
Players will be well compensated for their stint in India as, even without ticket sales, the IPL was still worth $6.19 billion last year, according to financial consultancy firm Duff & Phelps. That was down from $6.78 billion in 2019.
The BCCI would have been left with a $542 million hole in its coffers if it had cancelled its flagship event last year but ended up with record TV and digital viewership.
With curfews currently in force in many Indian states, the IPL can be expected to surpass last year’s viewership numbers with cricket fans in the world’s second most populous nation set to be glued to TV sets and electronic devices.