The curious case of the IPL 2020 in COVID-19 times

Can the IPL 2020 perform well during the Covid-19 times?
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IPL 2020 During Covid-19 

The world has gone through a complete upheaval in the past 6-7 months owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. From a cricketing perspective, England Cricket Board (ECB) paved the way for the return of the sport. But, the million dollar question is how well would the IPL 2020 succeed in COVID-19 times? It is a far more complicated task than conducting a bi-lateral series.

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They hosted West Indies for a three match Test series followed by Pakistan for a LOI series. Now they are in the middle of a T20I series against Australia that they have already won.

All this was possible because the ECB ensured that all their games were played in two grounds- The Rose Bowl, Southampton and Old Trafford, Manchester. Respecting and following the bio-secure bubble required, one must applaud the ECB for their efforts in the past few months.

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Can the BCCI manage to pull off what the ECB did?

England have included both Jos Buttler and Jofra Archer in their Twenty20 squad to face Australia
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 01: Moeen Ali of England celebrates with Sam Billings of England after taking the wicket of Fakhar Zaman of Pakistan during the 3rd Vitality International Twenty20 match between England and Pakistan at Emirates Old Trafford on September 01, 2020 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images for ECB)

Keeping in mind the financial implications of not having an IPL in 2020, the BCCI were ably supported by the UAE. Matches will be played across three venues- Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah.

Abu Dhabi will host 22 games, Dubai 20 games and Sharjah would host 8 games. It’s bound to happen that the pitches will start to wear out and take a big beating owing to lot of games being played on the same surface or 2-3 pitches on the same venue.

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The biggest question that needs to be answered is whether the bio-secure bubble can be maintained through the course of the tournament?

England had relatively less players visiting and that helped them to manage things very well. But how will BCCI ensure that the IPL 2020 functions smoothly in COVID-19 times?

Increasing concerns of player safety due to Covid-19 is going to plague IPL 2020

With the number of COVID-19 cases spiking in the UAE, many players have opted out of the marquee tournament. They have foregone big bucks and the IPL in favor of their personal safety along with their families.

This is going to be the toughest task for every franchise to tackle- retention of players as the tournament goes on. Already 12-13 members of CSK along with few of their younger players Deepak Chahar and Rituraj Gaikwad having tested positive for Coronations is certainly a worrying sign.

No franchise can compel a player to stick and be a part of the bio-secure bubble if he feels unsure and wants to leave. Suresh Raina, Lasith Malinga and Harbhajan Singh have opted out of this year’s IPL citing personal reasons.

Suresh Raina has said that he will not be available for IPL 2020
CHENNAI, INDIA – MAY 07: Suresh Raina of the Chennai Super Kings bats during the India Premier League IPL Qualifier Final match between the Mumbai Indians and the Chennai Super Kings at M.A.Chidambaram Stadium on May 07, 2019 in Chennai, India. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

The whole foundation around which the IPL is built on has been shaken up

Without a doubt, the IPL is the most talked about and followed event in the cricketing calendar. It brings together the best players from across the globe to be part of an extravaganza for two months. This makes it a superb event, filled with high quality. It is undoubtedly the best T20 tournament in the world.

Will that remain intact this year? With the IPL scheduled to be held in foreign conditions of UAE, how much of an impact will that have on the franchises? As lot of the fanfare built by the IPL is due to the ardent and loyal fan base of each franchise.

Without the fans cheering the teams, how will the franchises perform? What is the impact of empty stadiums on players performances? No one would imagine an empty stadium when the best entertainers in world cricket take on each other.

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It’s the reality of the times we are in that the tournament has to go on in this fashion. But the IPL without the jam packed stadiums, cheer girls, the noise and excitement  surrounding it will be a strange and weird experience for all involved.

Sandeep Lamichhane picks up a wicket during CPL 2020
TAROUBA, TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO – SEPTEMBER 05: Sandeep Lamichhane (R) of Jamaica Tallawahs successful appeal for lbw against Jason Holder (C) of Barbados Tridents during the Hero Caribbean Premier League match 28 between Jamaica Tallawahs and Barbados Tridents at Brian Lara Cricket Academy on September 5, 2020 in Tarouba, Trinidad And Tobago. (Photo by Randy Brooks – CPL T20/CPL T20 via Getty Images)

CPL 2020 has been successful so why can’t IPL 2020 during Covid-19?

It has been proven in the ongoing Caribbean Premier League(CPL) that a T20 tournament filled with stars can go on without too much impact on the quality of the games as such.

But the biggest question to be asked is: Can IPL pass the litmus test? Sans the fans and the noise, with the quality of cricket being the sole focus in this year’s IPL, will the tournament manage to become a success.

Without a doubt , there is lot of enjoyment and thrill as the IPL has managed to become a festival of sorts and in such worrying and tiring times it would serve the purpose of at least bringing joy to the millions of people watching the tournament from across the globe!

IPL 2020 must perform to a high standard, even with Covid-19 issues. The tournament is far too big. BCCI will be hoping that it can attract similar fans via television. The tournament to date has helped bring the best out of young Indian talents. Indian Cricket will be hopeful that it can do the same this year.

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