Coronavirus may force IPL out of India, chairman says

by Faisal KAMAL
South Africa hosted the IPL in 2009

The Indian Premier League could be moved out of the country if the coronavirus pandemic does not ease in the next two months, IPL chairman Brijesh Patel told AFP on Friday.

"Let us first see, we will try to stage it in India and if the situation does not allow then we will certainly look at other options," Patel told AFP on Friday.

"We will see how the situation is in the next month or two and then take a call accordingly," said Patel, adding that options included staging the cash-rich tournament abroad.

Pandemic cases have surged in the nation of 1.3 billion people. India now has the fourth highest caseload in the world, concentrated in major cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai which are cricket hubs.

The world's wealthiest Twenty20 tournament has twice been held outside India in years that it clashed with national elections.

South Africa hosted the second IPL in 2009, and the first half of the 2014 season took place in United Arab Emirates.

The UAE and Sri Lankan cricket boards have already shown interest in hosting the tournament this year.

Patel said the IPL is still looking at a window ahead of the T20 World Cup in Australia, which is scheduled for October-November.

But the International Cricket Council has deferred taking a decision on the fate of the T20 showpiece event because of pandemic worries.

"We are looking at a September-October window for the IPL, but it depends on the other tournaments as well," said Patel, who played 21 Tests for India, said.

"Nothing certain at the moment, but we are keeping our plans in place to make the IPL happen."

The IPL is usually a seven-week tournament, although BCCI president Sourav Ganguly has said he expects it to be shortened this year.

The Asia Cup, which will be a T20 event, is also scheduled to be held in September with UAE and Sri Lanka as possible hosts.

The IPL should have started on March 29 but it has been repeatedly postponed because of a nationwide coronavirus lockdown which is only gradually being eased.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has been working on contingency plans to save the event, although these have had to remain fluid as the situation evolves.

Ganguly said this week that the board wanted to hold tournament this year even it means playing in empty stadiums.

BCCI treasurer Arun Dhumal told AFP the board would suffer losses of more than 500 million dollars if the IPL is scrapped. The league is a huge revenue-earner for the BCCI, and is estimated to generate more than $11 billion for the Indian economy.

South Africa hosted the IPL in 2009