As India reached 20 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 and the virus breached the biosecure bubble, the IPL was this morning suspended indefinitely, leaving 11 English players looking for a route home from the red-listed country.
Only a week ago, after R.Ashwin and three Australians left the tournament, all players received a missive from Hemang Amin, the interim chief executive of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, saying they were playing for “humanity” and claiming the bubble was totally secure.
But as the Covid-19 situation continued to worsen nationally, as many as four IPL franchises have recorded positive tests inside the bubble, leaving organisers with no choice but to call off the tournament. With half the group stage left unplayed, there is no imminent prospect of its return due to world cricket’s congested calendar.
Yesterday’s game against Royal Challengers Bangalore was called off because two Kolkata Knight Riders players, Varun Chakravarthy and Sandeep Warrier, tested positive.
Today’s game was due to involve Sunrisers Hyderabad, where Wriddhiman Saha tested positive, and Chennai Super Kings – where two members of support staff are positive – were set to play tomorrow. Reports claimed Amit Mishra of Delhi Capitals had also tested positive.
At an “emergency meeting” today, the BCCI “unanimously decided” that the tournament had to be suspended immediately.
A statement read: “The BCCI does not want to compromise on the safety of the players, support staff and the other participants involved in organising the IPL. This decision was taken keeping the safety, health and wellbeing of all the stakeholders in mind.
“These are difficult times, especially in India and while 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 BCCI said it would ensure “safe passage” for all participants, but for the English contingent – 11 players, as well as a number of other franchise staff – any travel is likely to involve considerable quarantine.
Reports suggest players would need to isolate for four days – including three negative tests – before departure. Travel from India is possible for British nationals, but requires 10 days’ quarantine in a government-approved hotel on return. It seems unlikely, therefore, that players would depart before Saturday and be back with their families for a fortnight.
The ECB have steadfastly left decisions over departing the tournament in the players’ hands. Liam Livingstone left citing bubble fatigue shortly before India was placed on the government’s red list.
An ECB statement on Tuesday afternoon said: “Following this morning’s postponement of the Indian Premier League, we are in close contact with our players and staff in India as arrangements are put in place for them to return home safely.
“The ECB understands the BCCI’s decision to postpone the competition for the safety and wellbeing of those involved, and thanks the BCCI for its commitment to do everything in its powers to arrange for the secure and safe passage of all those taking part in the competition.
“Our thoughts remain with the people of India during these challenging times.”
For the dozens of Australians involved in the tournament, the picture is more complicated, with all travel from India banned.
Meanwhile, Jofra Archer was today due to step up his comeback from an elbow injury by turning out for Sussex seconds at Hove.