The 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) has been suspended 'until further notice' on Thursday. The league was scheduled to begin on 29 March but was postponed till 15 April in wake of the COVID-19 outbreak that has halted all sporting activities all around the world.
"The health and safety of the nation and everyone involved in our great sport remains our top priority and as such, the BCCI along with the Franchise Owners, Broadcaster, Sponsors and all the Stakeholders acknowledge that the IPL 2020 season will only commence when it is safe and appropriate to do so," said BCCI secretary Jay Shah in a statement.
Along with the IPL, all other cricketing action is also suspended right now due to the government directive which bars any large gathering.
BCCI was non-committal on when cricket could resume in the country and Shah maintained that India's richest sporting body is monitoring the situation and will seek guidance from the central government as well as states before taking any decision.
"BCCI will continue to monitor and review the situation regarding a potential start date in close partnership with all of its stakeholders and will continue to take guidance from the Government of India, State Governments and other State Regulatory bodies," statement went on to add.
Indian government had announced a lockdown from 24 March to 14 April, citing the COVID-19 threat, eventually leading to postponement of the league to 15 April. With Indian government extending the lockdown till 3 May, as cases are on the rise in the country, the postponement was on the cards.
Earlier, BCCI president Sourav Ganguly had hinted about the further postponement of the league. He had told The New Indian Express, "...Airports are shut, people are stuck at home, offices are locked down, nobody can go anywhere. And it seems this is how it's going to be till the middle of May. Where will you get players from, where do players travel."
IPL was originally scheduled to begin on 29 March at the Wankhede Stadium, with 2019 finalists, Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings facing off. Due to the nationwide lockdown, there was speculation about playing IPL in empty stadiums, before the start date was officially deferred to 15 April.
The decision to postpone the tournament indefinitely will strike a blow to the stakeholders - players, franchises, league, advertisers and broadcasters. At the auction in December, 62 players were traded by the eight franchises for a collective fee of Rs 140.30 crore. But none of the players will receive their salaries with the tournament not being played.
The franchises would incur a massive financial burden especially with no TV revenue coming in. Star India had paid a record Rs. 16,347.50 crore for five years of broadcast of the IPL in 2017. Every franchise was then assured a minimum Rs 150 crore per season from that kitty.
IPL franchises have had a mixed view on holding the event this year. While Kings XI Punjab co-owner Ness Wadia has stated that sport cannot be priority at the time of a pandemic, Rajasthan Royals had suggested having the tournament behind closed doors some time this year.
Players -- past and present -- have, however, been united in saying that that the tournament should go ahead at some point given the livelihoods it sustains.
The only window which the BCCI can target for hosting the tournament is September-November.
For that to happen, India will have to skip the Asia Cup in Dubai or else, Cricket Australia and the International Cricket Council will have to agree to postpone the T20 World Cup.
The World Cup is scheduled to be held in October-November.
(With inputs from PTI)
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