IPL 2021 suspended: BCCI & Indian govt too complacent? | Were the BCCI and Indian government arrogant to think they could host IPL in India?
Cricket in India is something else. The IPL is something else. The fanfare, the passion. All the passionate roars from the fans when even a single is scored. The emotion that can’t ever be felt through a TV screen, but you feel plenty of emotion anyway.
This season of IPL was always going to be different, even though the BCCI and the Indian government tried to convince themselves otherwise. Not only did they convince themselves that holding a tournament of this magnitude in India – one of the worst-hit countries in the COVID-19 pandemic – was safe, but they also looked at the possibility of ticket revenue from this tournament itself.
This can easily come off as arrogance. And even greedy. Why? Because it’s as if the mammoth financial revenue gained from broadcasting and sponsorships wasn’t enough. While having fans at the stadium is brilliant from a cricketing perspective, the BCCI and IPL, given the viewership it pulls from around the globe, is not in need of ticketing revenue to survive. Especially in such circumstances.
I tried to make sense of it all in the March 3 episode of The CricBlog Podcast. I tried to make sense of the situation, and posed the question of whether the BCCI was arrogant in believing that such a huge tournament, where a number of overseas players form a key part, could be run without fuss as the nation screams outside the supposedly unbreachable bubble.
Yes, the T20 World Cup is to be held in India later this year, and the IPL was to act as the “test run”. But, how can a tournament that the BCCI was so desperate to keep going because of its financial might be considered simply as a “test run”?
Complacency? Arrogance? Both?
In the end, the word “complacent” can be used to best describe the situation, as the overall COVID-19 situation in India improved at the backend of 2020. The improvement saw fans return to cricket stadiums to watch India and England go head-to-head in Test and T20I cricket in early 2021.
And it wasn’t a small number, either. 60,000 fans were allowed into the 132,000-capacity Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad for the first two T20Is against England. Social distancing was limited, and COVID-19, looking at it as an outsider from Australia, looked to be history in India.
But, with a population as large and dense as India’s, a significant second-wave was very much possible. Many would say it was inevitable. And, it takes just one or two cases of COVID-19 within the bubble for the tournament to be shut down. KKR’s Varun Chakravarthy and Sandeep Warrier sent the BCCI into a meltdown by testing positive for COVID-19. As did members of CSK’s contingent, including Michael Hussey. So too Wriddhiman Saha.
The BCCI held on for dear life, postponing matches and enforcing quarantine periods on teams. However, no matter how tight and well-defined your SOPs are, as soon as the bubble is breached, it’s all over. And, it’s clear that the BCCI felt, before the tournament, that such an instance wouldn’t happen.
The possibility of such an occurrence, which is greater in India than it is in the UAE, didn’t stop the BCCI and Indian government from taking a huge risk in holding the tournament in India. It is actually a surprise to see the organisers take such a big risk for a tournament of such financial status, as one would think that everything would be done to ensure its protection. After all, the UAE edition in 2020 went pretty well. Hindsight is a great thing, but surely even if you asked a BCCI official before the tournament, he or she would say that the UAE is the safer option.
IPL 2020 was the proof. And, although it was missing the passionate fans, did you enjoy it? I sure did.
But, the BCCI and government felt the worst had passed. In fact, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that India is ready to protect humanity from COVID-19 thanks to India’s vaccination plan and programme. The BCCI were convinced nothing could burst the bubble across a timespan of six weeks. Not even one case. After all, the worst was over, right?
Sadly not. The situation in India is all-the-more heartbreaking as each day passes by. Soon after the IPL began, India suffered new daily cases upward of 300,000. Andrew Tye was the first Australian to leave to get back home in time. Kane Richardson and Adam Zampa followed soon after. Now, Australians can’t get back home as Scott Morrison last week enforced a travel ban from India until at least May 15. It is now a crime to enter Australia from India, with huge fines and even jail time enforceable, but the BCCI has organised for the Australian contingent to move to either the Maldives or Sri Lanka for the forseeable future. This, understandably, comes with public outcry as other citizens have had to wait much longer to get back home.
And, all for what, BCCI? Ticket revenue, that of which you don’t need to survive right now?
The debate on whether the tournament should go ahead raged on. Eventually, the BCCI’s hand was forced, but not before accusations of being “tone-deaf” and carrying on without a word inside the bubble as the nation was on its knees outside it. Had the tournament been played in the UAE, as it was in 2020, there would have been much greater acceptance from the public as to the IPL’s source of escape and distraction.
Because that’s what cricket is. It should a source of pleasure, rather than annoyance. It provides us with an escape; something to look forward to, which is especially important in these difficult times. Instead, cricket tragics no longer have the IPL to look forward to, as the BCCI will have to find some time in an already saturated cricketing calendar to try finish this tournament of which half still remains.
The BCCI and Indian government seemingly couldn’t imagine a situation like this happening. It has, and the IPL, which is nothing compared to human lives but grand in cricketing circles, has fallen victim.