Unlike the 2020 edition, held in limited venues in the UAE with players not moving in and out of the biosecure bubble, the 2021 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL 2021) will be played in six stadiums across the country. With Covid-19 surging -- and the country seemingly in the grips of a second and must more fast spreading wave -- the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the league governing council have a headache. The logistics to safely shift biosecure bubbles from one city to another is going to be a major task. And the coronavirus has started closing in even as the date for the start of the season -- April 9 -- approaches.
Delhi Capitals' Axar Patel, 10 members of the ground staff at Wankhede stadium and six event managers deployed by the BCCI, are the latest in the growing list of positive Covid-19 cases in the IPL bandwagon. Hyderabad and Indore have been kept as standby venues in case the pandemic situation spirals out of control in the centres planned, especially Mumbai.
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However, as of now, the BCCI is confident about holding the games in Mumbai.
"Yes, Hyderabad is one of the stand-by venues but for all practical purposes, we are still not thinking about shifting games from Mumbai. It will be difficult to create another bio-bubble at such short notice," PTI quoted a senior BCCI official on Saturday.
The organisers are worried about the growing number of cases at the Wankhede Stadium. The number was eight till Friday evening but now it's 10.
If that wasn't enough, around six members of the event management team have also tested positive and have been placed in isolation.
"Yes, there were eight positive cases yesterday as far as ground-staff are concerned. Today two more positive cases have emerged and all 10 have been sent back home and are isolated.
"We are bringing fresh ground-staff from the Mumbai CA ground in Kandivali for preparations. Also 6 to 7 event management staff hired by the BCCI have also tested positive," a senior Mumbai Cricket Association official told PTI.
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In the afternoon, Delhi Capitals issued a statement that their spin bowling all-rounder Axar Patel has been shifted to a Covid-19 isolation facility after testing positive.
"Delhi Capitals all-rounder Axar Patel has tested positive for Covid-19. He had checked into the team hotel in Mumbai on March 28, 2021, with a negative report. His report from the second Covid-19 test, came positive," the DC statement read.
"He is currently in isolation at a designated medical care facility. The Delhi Capitals medical team is in constant touch with Axar and ensuring his safety and well-being."
With an addition of close to 47,000 cases on Friday, Maharashtra is looking at the possibility of a mini lockdown already hinted by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
"...I am giving an indication for a complete lockdown, but not announcing it formally. If things do not improve visibly in a couple of days and if no other solution is found, we will have to announce another lockdown like it is being done globally," the Maharashtra CM had tweeted late on Friday.
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When a senior BCCI office-bearer was asked about the situation, he admitted that BCCI is indeed concerned but are hopeful of pulling off matches. The Board, in fact, feels a lockdown won’t affect the staging of matches
"Look, even if there is a lockdown, the teams are in bio-bubble and also it's a closed-door event. So we are still confident that IPL games in Mumbai will be held as per schedule with Delhi Capitals playing Chennai Super Kings on April 10 on the second day of the tournament.
"But Hyderabad and Indore are there on stand-by in case the situation goes out of hand. But if there is lockdown, it is even more easier to hold the games as the crowd factor even around the venue and other paces is taken care of," the office bearer told PTI.
As of now, none of the teams currently in Mumbai -- Delhi Capitals, Mumbai Indians, Rajasthan Royals, Punjab Kings -- have access to Wankhede.
"Delhi Capitals and Punjab Kings for example are taking turns to train at the Brabourne Stadium and Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) ground. KKR is training in Navi Mumbai at the DY Patil before they leave for Chennai," the official informed.
It is expected that BCCI's medical unit will enhance the testing rate due to the surge of cases in the state.
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The event management and operations of IPL till last year was handled by IMG but from this season, the Board is handling it on its own.
"We have enough back-up staff to handle as we had factored in that the situation in Mumbai is grim at the moment. But yes, we are closely monitoring the situation," the official added.
Meanwhile, a positive case has also emerged from Chennai Super Kings' media team. The member isn't a part of the bio-bubble. The team's training schedule remains unaffected.
(With inputs from PTI)
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