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India's IPL cricket suspended over coronavirus

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

NEW DELHI, India (AFP) — The Indian Premier League (IPL), the world's richest Twenty20 cricket tournament, was suspended yesterday and its players sent home as India battles a massive surge in novel coronavirus cases.

The move, which follows growing controversy over the competition, comes a day after two players — Varun Chakravarthy and Sandeep Warrier — tested positive, forcing a match to be postponed.

“The Indian Premier League Governing Council and Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in an emergency meeting has unanimously decided to postpone [the] IPL 2021 season, with immediate effect,” a statement from organisers said.

“The BCCI does not want to compromise on the safety of the players, support staff and the other participants involved in organising the IPL,” it added.

The Chennai Super Kings added in a statement yesterday that its Bowling Coach L Balaji and a member of the side's travel support staff tested positive after undergoing tests in India's capital New Delhi on Sunday.

The side's batting coach, Australian Michael Hussey, has also tested positive, The Times of India reported late yesterday, citing a source.

The newspaper added that his samples were being retested.

India, which has reported more than 20 million infections so far, with just over 222,000 deaths, is also due to host the Twenty20 World Cup in October and November.

The high-paying IPL, which was taking place in biosecure “bubble” conditions, attracts many of the world's top cricketers, including players from Australia, England and South Africa.

BCCI Vice-President Rajiv Shukla told AFP that the governing body would “make the arrangements” for the IPL's international players to leave India.

Cricket Australia said in a statement that it was in touch with the BCCI to “ensure the safe accommodation and repatriation of Australian players, coaches, match officials and commentators back home”.

The governing body added that it was not seeking exemptions from the Australian Government's move to ban travellers from India from entering the country until at least May 15.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and Cricket South Africa added that they were in contact with players and support staff, and working to bring their nationals home.

The IPL has been running since early April, even as India's health care system has been overwhelmed by a vicious second wave of virus cases.

This prompted criticism from some who said it was inappropriate, given the suffering in the country, while others defended it as a welcome distraction.

Eight teams have been playing behind closed doors in six cities including Delhi and Mumbai, both badly hit by the pandemic.

“These are difficult times, especially in India and while we have tried to bring in some positivity and cheer, however, it is imperative that the tournament is now suspended and everyone goes back to their families and loved ones in these trying times,” the statement said.