As things stand, members of three franchises have been confirmed to have tested positive
IPL 2021 has been postponed, following several positive Covid-19 cases across franchises over the past couple of days. The move was confirmed by IPL chairman Brijesh Patel, who said it was for the safety of all stakeholders.
In a media statement, the IPL said the decision was “unanimously” taken by the tournament’s Governing Council along with the top brass of the BCCI. “The BCCI does not want to compromise on the safety of the players, support staff and the other participants involved in organising the IPL,” the statement said. “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 statement also said the BCCI would do “do everything in its powers to arrange for the secure and safe passage of all the participants in IPL 2021”.
Sunrisers Hyderabad became the third franchise to register cases when it was confirmed earlier on Tuesday that Wriddhiman Saha had tested positive for Covid-19 and was isolating away from the rest of the squad; he had reported reported symptoms including persistent fever.
Previously, the Kolkata Knight Riders – with two players – and the Chennai Super Kings – with two members of staff – had registered cases.
The postponement comes a week after the BCCI reassured all stakeholders and the eight teams that the tournament bubble was “totally safe”. That note was sent out by the BCCI’s interim chief executive officer Hemang Amin, who told players they were playing the 2021 IPL not just to win, but for something “much more important… humanity.”
However, by Monday, May 3, the first cases of IPL’s bubble being breached by the virus emerged, after the Knight Riders’ Varun Chakravarthy and Sandeep Warrier tested positive. Subsequently, Monday’s match between the Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalore in Ahmedabad was put off.
At the same time, in Delhi, the Super Kings reported two confirmed cases: bowling coach L Balaji and a member of their service staff. Balaji’s case, in particular, raised concerns among the other franchises as he was in the team’s dugout on May 1 during the match against the Mumbai Indians. Earlier today, it was confirmed that the Super Kings had gone into isolation for a week. The Saha news soon followed, before the tournament’s postponement was announced.
The BCCI released the IPL schedule on March 7, with six cities staging matches between April 9 and May 30. The plan was for a caravan model, with two of the six venues being used at any given time. The first leg took place in Chennai and Mumbai and the second leg – ongoing till today’s postponement news – was in Ahmedabad and Delhi. The third leg was due to kick off in Bengaluru and Kolkata next week, with the playoffs scheduled for Ahmedabad.
However India’s worsening pandemic situation – it has been recording around 400,000 new positive cases daily over the past few days – prompted several countries to ban travellers from India. The Australian government even imposed a ban on its own citizens returning from India until May 15 and said any transgression would be deemed a criminal offence.
All this meant the players were getting anxious. Liam Livingstone and Andrew Tye (both Royals) and the Royal Challengers pair of Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson returned home – to England and Australia – before the clampdowns. The Capitals’ lead spinner R Ashwin also ended his IPL stint after the first leg to attend to his family, many of whom had tested positive for Covid-19. Senior Indian umpire Nitin Menon too returned home to Indore to attend to his parents, who were positive. Australian umpire Paul Reiffel admitted he was minutes away from leaving India until the travel corridor through which he was planning to return was shut off.
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo
No Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav in India’s squad of 20 for WTC final and England Tests
KL Rahul and Wriddhiman Saha were picked subject to “fitness clearance”
There was no Hardik Pandya or Kuldeep Yadav as India named a squad of 20 players, including two – KL Rahul and Wriddhiman Saha – subject to “fitness clearance”, as well as four standby players for the final of the World Test Championship against New Zealand and the subsequent five-Test series against England in August-September. India will play the WTC final from June 18 to 22 in Southampton and the Test series against England from August 4, starting in Nottingham, to September 14, with the last Test scheduled for Manchester.
Virat Kohli’s side is expected to leave for England on June 2, and keeping in mind the length of the tour as well as possible contingencies because of the Covid-19 pandemic, India are carrying a total of 24 players, their reserves’ list reading Abhimanyu Easwaran, the opening batter, and three fast bowlers: Prasidh Krishna, Avesh Khan and Arzan Nagwaswalla.
Rahul underwent surgery for appendicitis in early May after he complained of “severe abdomen pain” during the IPL. At the time, the doctors were understood to have told the Punjab Kings that Rahul would be able to resume all activity in a week’s time.
Saha, the other player who has to prove his fitness in time for the tour, tested positive for Covid-19 on May 4, the same day the IPL was postponed indefinitely. Saha, who was a part of the Sunrisers Hyderabad, is still in Delhi, where he returned the positive test. It is understood that he would have to undergo 14 days in isolation and be able to move out only after a negative test. As things stand, he is still exhibiting symptoms of Covid-19 including the loss of smell.
Of the players dropped from the squad that played against England at home earlier this year, Pandya did have a question mark over him since he has not bowled regularly for some time now, with Kohli saying that he wanted to preserve Pandya the bowler for the Tests in England. He had a shoulder niggle during the IPL, and didn’t bowl at all in the seven matches he played for the Mumbai Indians. He did, however, bowl a nine-over burst in the third and final ODI against England.
As for Kuldeep, while he has been a part of the India squad recently, he has not had many games. Of his seven Tests, he has played only one in the last two years – the second Test against England in February this year – and he got to bowl just 12.2 overs overall, returning 0 for 16 and 2 for 25 as India won by 317 runs. His previous Test appearance before that was back in January 2019 in Sydney, where he picked up 5 for 99 in the first Australia innings.
With Axar Patel making a big splash on Test debut in the England series with a haul of 27 wickets from three games and India mostly preferring one or both of R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, depending on conditions, Kuldeep’s chances of making the cut took a hit.
Squad: Virat Kohli (capt), Ajinkya Rahane (vice-capt), Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (wk), R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Washington Sundar, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur, Umesh Yadav, KL Rahul (subject to fitness clearance), Wriddhiman Saha (wk; subject to fitness clearance). Standby players: Abhimanyu Easwaran, Prasidh Krishna, Avesh Khan, Arzan Nagwaswalla
More to follow…
India set to name squads for England Tests, WTC final over the weekend
The selectors are expected to pick an enlarged squad with enough reserves to cater for any contingency
The Indian squads for both the World Test Championship final and the five-Test England series are set to be picked over the weekend. It is understood that the Virat Kohli-lead Indian squad is likely to depart for England on June 2.
Keeping in mind the extensive length of the tour, spanning between June and mid-September, the selectors are expected to pick an enlarged squad with enough reserves to cater for any contingency. Even the ICC recently approved increasing the squad strength from 23 to 30 (including support staff) for global events during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The WTC final between India and New Zealand is scheduled to be held in Southampton between June 18 and 22. As per the existing schedule, the Test series is meant to begin only on August 4, with the first match at Trent Bridge followed by Lord’s (August 12-16), Leeds (August 25-29), The Oval (September 2-6) and Old Trafford (September 10-14).
As per the previous plan, before the UK government in April put India on the red list of countries from where travellers are barred during the pandemic, the BCCI was looking at picking two separate squads with the first batch meant for the WTC final and the second batch leaving closer to the England tour.
That is one of the key questions that the BCCI needs to resolve: what the players would do in the nearly four-week gap before the squad reassembles for the England Test series. In April, the ECB announced that the Indians would be arriving with an inflated squad and would play two intra-squad practice matches in July. Those two matches replaced the original warm-up schedule comprising two previously planned four-day fixtures between Indians and India A in July. The ECB, in agreement with BCCI, had postponed the India A tour due to the pandemic.
The other question for the BCCI deals with players wanting to travel with their families keeping in mind the long tour. With the UK imposing a hard quarantine for all in-bound travellers from India (this applied even to the England players and support staff that returned from the IPL this week), the BCCI needs to figure whether it can get exemptions for the families. Currently, the ICC along with the ECB are speaking to the UK government to get exemptions for the players for the WTC final.
Both those points are likely to feature when the BCCI’s top brass meets soon, which is even likely over the weekend once the selectors submit the final list of names for the enlarged squad. It is also likely that the BCCI might hold back announcing the squad until it has the nod from the Indian government authorities as well as the ICC and ECB on the travel exemptions and the quarantine rules.
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo
Covid-19 in Pakistan – PCB approaches Emirates Cricket Board to host remainder of PSL 2021 in the UAE
The franchises had requested the PCB to shift the games out of Karachi because of the pandemic
The PCB has formally approached the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) to host the remaining games of the rescheduled 2021 edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) in the UAE. The earlier plan was to play the matches in Karachi, but the PCB has decided against it following a request from the six franchises as well as advice from the National Command Operation Centre (NCOC), which asked the board to avoid playing in Karachi because of the worsening Covid-19 situation in the country.
As reported by ESPNcricinfo, the franchises had written a letter to the board last week, asking for the tournament to be played in the Emirates, and the PCB, which had been reviewing the existing plans, has now accepted the proposal. It is understood that the PCB has also cancelled its booking with the hotel in Karachi where it had reserved 407 rooms.
The 2021 edition of the PSL was suspended after 14 games – played between February 20 and March 3, all in Karachi – following an outbreak of cases among players and support staff. After a date for resumption was finalised – June 2 to June 20 – the franchises took part in a replacement draft to plug holes in their line-ups because a number of overseas players would not be able to take part in the games on the new dates.
The changed situation with the pandemic, however, made franchises nervous about the situation, which led to them approaching the PCB.
Pakistan, meanwhile, has announced a decision to curtail inbound flights to the country from May 5 to May 20. And a national lockdown has also been put in place in Pakistan from today till May 15.
A move to the UAE would not be without its own logistical and operational issues, though. Flights to the country from Pakistan are currently operating at a severely reduced frequency. And June is not a month in which top-level cricket is often played in the UAE, because of the oppressive heat at that time of the year.
More to follow…
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo’s Pakistan correspondent
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