Indian Premier League | Matches to be played in front of empty stands?

Saturday’s Governing Council meeting will decide the fate of the tournament

The Sports Ministry has asked all the national sports federations, including the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), to adhere to the Health Ministry’s guidelines on barring all “public gatherings.”

Also read: Foreign players not available for IPL till April 15 due to fresh visa restrictions

The Ministry of External Affairs advised the BCCI not to go ahead with the Indian Premier League (IPL) “at this time” but left it to the discretion of the board. The BCCI continued to explore various options ahead of Saturday’s IPL Governing Council (GC) meeting to decide the fate of the 13th edition which is scheduled to start in Mumbai on March 29.

Holistic approach

“There have been conflicting advisories from various quarters, so on Saturday, we will sit down with all the stakeholders and take a holistic approach for deciding the future course of action,” BCCI treasurer Arun Dhumal told The Hindu on Thursday.

While Dhumal confirmed that representatives of all eight franchisees along with those from the broadcaster have been invited for the meeting, he said it would be premature to discuss overseas players’ participation.

The Hindu reported on Thursday that with a majority of visas to India being cancelled in the wake of COVID-19 scare, overseas cricketers and coaching staff members will be ineligible to enter the country at least till April 15 since they are issued B-Sports visas under Business Visa category.

“Yes, it has been brought to our notice. If the GC decides to go ahead with the event, then we shall have to request the relevant government authorities for it (issuing visas to overseas cricketers and support staff members),” Dhumal said.

With the sports ministry diktat of not allowing public gatherings, it is likely that if IPL goes ahead as scheduled, it will be played in front of empty stands, at least till the virus threat subsides.

Ticket sales suspended

All the franchisees which had started ticket sales have suspended it, to adhere to the ministry’s policy.

The big question to be considered for the IPL authorities is whether to postpone IPL or whether to go ahead as per schedule, with overseas cricketers eliminated for the first few games as the last resort. A majority of franchisee executives The Hindu spoke with felt postponement isn’t a suitable option.

“Suspension or postponement would lead to more confusion. If the advisory is extended beyond April 15, then there will be no time to play and with a cramped international calendar for the rest of the year, there’ll be no window beyond May to stage the IPL,” said a franchisee official, preferring anonymity.

A BCCI official, citing anonymity, stated the ball will be in BCCI president Sourav Ganguly and Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s — father of BCCI secretary Jay Shah — court. “If the minister informally advises the president to go ahead with the event, he (Ganguly) will press for the IPL as per schedule with empty stands,” he said.

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