The Indian Premier League, cricket’s richest and most glitzy competition, was suspended indefinitely after players or staff at three teams tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday amid a surge in nationwide infections.
Many of the world’s best players compete in the Twenty20 tournament and were scrambling to find ways to get back to their native countries. Countries including the United States and Australia have temporarily barred travelers from India, leaving many players, some from the West Indies, with limited routes to return home.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India decided to postpone the Indian Premier League, which started on April 9, after two staffers at Chennai Super Kings and a player for Sunrisers Hyderabad returned positive tests for COVID-19.
On Monday, the first cases involving players inside the IPL’s biosecure bubble forced a game between Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalore to be postponed.
“The BCCI does not want to compromise on the safety of the players, support staff and the other participants,” the BCCI said.
“These are difficult times, especially in India. We have tried to bring in some positivity and cheer, however, it is imperative that the tournament is now suspended and everyone goes back to their families and loved ones in these trying times.”
The IPL staged 29 games without spectators, at least one every night until Monday, despite India’s stretched health system being pushed to the brink by another major wave of the virus.
India’s official count of coronavirus cases surpassed 20 million on Tuesday, nearly doubling in the past three months, while deaths officially have passed 220,000. Staggering as those numbers are, the true figures are believed to be far higher, the undercount an apparent reflection of the troubles in the healthcare system.
The BCCI said it would do “everything in its powers to arrange for the secure and safe passage” of all players, but for some overseas players it wasn’t going to be easy.
The postponement of the IPL throws into doubt the International Cricket Council’s T20 World Cup set to be staged in India in October and November. The UAE has already been suggested as an alternative host.
The ICC had to cancel the 2020 T20 World Cup in Australia because of the pandemic.
Rather than push the schedule back by 12 months, cricket’s international governing body decided to stage the 2021 edition in India and return to Australia for the 2022 tournament.