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  5. COVID-19 brings cricket to halt in cricket-mad India; football, badminton, hockey also affected

COVID-19 brings cricket to halt in cricket-mad India; football, badminton, hockey also affected

The world's most powerful and cash-rich cricket board on Saturday went into a huddle with the eight franchise owners of IPL, which has been postponed from March 29 to April 15.

PTI Reported by: PTI New Delhi Published on: March 14, 2020 20:52 IST
COVID-19 brings cricket to halt in cricket-mad India; football, badminton, hockey also affected
Image Source : GETTY/AP/GETTY

COVID-19 brings cricket to halt in cricket-mad India; football, badminton, hockey also affected

Health comes first, said the BCCI as cricket came to a grinding halt at it's 'spiritual home' India where the war on COVID-19 pandemic caused the suspension of all sporting activity for at least the next fortnight.

The world's most powerful and cash-rich cricket board on Saturday went into a huddle with the eight franchise owners of its most glitzy event, which has been postponed from March 29 to April 15.

It later suspended the remainder of the domestic season until further notice. This came a day after the Board called off an ongoing ODI series against South Africa.

"We met with the owners, to tell them how it can happen and where do we stand at the moment. At the moment, it is just postponed. We will assess the situation," Ganguly said, adding that as and when the IPL happens, it would be truncated.

The calendars went haywire for football, badminton, and hockey as well. While the national football federation suspended all action till March 31 at least, the India Open badminton stood cancelled after the world body's decision to postpone every event till April 12.

Hockey's world governing body stopped the ongoing Pro League, also featuring India, till April 15.

India has more than 80 positive COVID-19 cases and two deaths so far. The global death count has crossed 5,000 and the number of infected is close to 150,000.

"All India Football Federation understands and prioritises the importance of human health and life...The AIFF will take stock of the situation in the last week of March, and take a decision abiding by directives from relevant authorities at that juncture," read a statement from the national football federation, expressing a sentiment which was echoed by their counterparts in other national sports bodies.

Prominent domestic cricket tournaments that were postponed are the Irani Cup, Vizzy Trophy, Senior Women's One-Day Knockout, and the Senior Women's One-Day Challenger, among others.

The junior women's tournaments put on hold until further notice include the Under-19 One-Day knockout, Under-19 T20 League, Super League, and knockout, Under-19 T20 Challenger Trophy, Under-23 knockout, and Under-23 One-Day Challenger.

But the bigger logistical nightmare facing the BCCI is the IPL.

Kings XI Punjab co-owner Ness Wadia said that he doesn't know when the T20 event will commence.

"...no one, you know, is in a position today to say when it's going to start. We will review the situation after two to three weeks. And hopefully by then the cases will reduce," Wadia told reporters after the IPL owners' meeting with Ganguly and Board secretary Jay Shah.

Seven options on how to conduct a truncated league were discussed in this meeting, the most likely being a truncated tournament.

"The second option right now is that teams could be divided into two groups of four and then top four go into the play-offs. The third option is increase of double headers (played on weekdays)," a source said.

The fourth option is holding all matches in just a couple of centres with restricted movements of players, support staff and TV crew.

Another is to play behind closed doors and have all the 60 games in a shorter time frame which will ensure that the stakeholders do not lose out too much money.

"As much as we want to host the IPL, we also need to be careful about the security," said Ganguly.

At least five optional venues are being kept ready after state governments of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Delhi refused permission for the games.

In a case of individual turmoil, India's women's hockey coach Sjoerd Marijne could not fly back to his home to The Netherlands owing to the travel restrictions in place right now.

"I was supposed to visit my family in The Netherlands during this break but I had to put off my plans because of the coronavirus outbreak. I don't want to risk myself and my family during these troubled times," Marijne told PTI from Bengaluru. 

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