The fate of the 2020 Indian Premier League is now uncertain after the announcement that Delhi will not host any games due to the coronavirus (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
The coronavirus pandemic has cast a big cloud over the 2020 edition of the Indian Premier League. With the disease now stopping or affecting sporting events all over the globe, the fate of the IPL is uncertain. There will be a meeting of the IPL Governing Council in Mumbai on Saturday and the fate of whether the tournament will be cancelled, curtailed, postponed or whether will it be played behind closed doors will be decided. There will be plenty of factors at play when any kind of decision will be taken. The Government of India has issued an advisory with a ban on all existing foreign visas, except a few categories like diplomatic and employment, till April 15 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Maharashtra and Karnataka governments are already wary of organising home games of Mumbai Indians and the Royal Challengers Bangalore, with the Karnataka Government writing an official letter to the central government asking them to postpone or suspend this year's IPL amid coronavirus threat.
What Do We Know So Far?
Delhi has become the first state to ban all Indian Premier League games in the state due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. With Maharashtra and Karnataka also unwilling to host the IPL games in the wake of the coronavirus, the IPL Governing Council now has a big task in hand as to how they can organise the games. The Delhi announcement has made the chances of even a closed door IPL a remote possibility. With no foreign players allowed to enter India until April 15 and with the remaining two games between India and South Africa in Lucknow and Kolkata being played behind closed doors, there are very limited options.
Can The Tournament Be Postponed?
No. At best a curtailed IPL is the best option. The franchisees have proposed postponing the league by two weeks, which is after April 15. That is the date when the foreign players could be available. This is one of the situations that will be discussed in the Indian Premier League Governing Council meeting. The nature of international cricket is such that the bilateral series take precedence after IPL. The Indian Premier League will be played only during the two months of April and May and there is no other window available. What can be the best compromise situation is that the league could start from April 16 and teams play only each other once and the top four qualify. So, there will be only one round-robin format and not two.
Possibility Of Closed Doors IPL?
With the government announcing the measures on Thursday, the prospects of the IPL being played behind closed doors seemed like a real possibility. However, with the Delhi government now banning all sporting activities including the IPL, the chances of hosting the games behind closed doors is now in danger. There are reports, though, that Sourav Ganguly, the BCCI president, is really determined to hold the IPL to be held behind closed doors. In a report on DNA, Ganguly might convince the franchises to play behind closed doors if they have to recover some portion of the revenue.
Will IPL Be Cancelled?
Looking at the way how global sporting events are panning out, with some getting cancelled and some getting played behind closed doors, this is a very tricky situation. A cancelled IPL could result in a loss of an estimated 100 billion rupees or more. The best possible outcome for the BCCI and the franchisees would be to make the IPL only a TV broadcasting tournament for this edition and forego all ticketing revenue in order to recover all the losses from TV and digital broadcast. In the IPL, ticketing sales make up only a fraction and the BCCI could forego this money and make up the losses via only TV broadcasting.
Will Franchisees And Broadcasters Agree?
Telecasting the matches on TV in the backdrop of empty stadiums is a major deterrent to broadcasters. In addition, with franchises devoid of foreign players for close to two weeks, it will be a major balancing act whether the broadcasters and franchisees agree to this arrangement. There is no guarantee that in the wake of the pandemic, the government might not put in new measures after April 15 with regards to restriction of travel. With the government now determined to ensure that the pandemic does not spread, the broadcasters and franchisees have a big decision to take.
Is Player Safety One Of The Major Issues?
That will take precedence over anything. If an IPL is held, closed doors or not, player and fan safety is paramount. With players at major risk, it would be a good thing to not hold the IPL but the league operates on Lewis Hamilton's quote which he made during the Australian Grand Prix and that was 'Cash is King'.