The IPL-2021 Charge Amid The Second COVID-19 Surge!

It is always debatable to have a major cricket tournament in the midst of an unprecedented surge of the pandemic, even though it is to be played behind closed doors, the new normal cricket variety, and with the imposition of a strict bio-secure bubble. As it has been seen so far several cricketers and support staff have contracted the COVID-19 virus, and since the tournament is being held across six venues—Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Kolkata—it would entail constant air travel and change of hotels for the eight participating teams. Further, the venues are the capitals of the worst affected states, except perhaps for Kolkata in West Bengal where the rising trend of new cases has not yet caught up with the others. It is to be noted that the IPL-2020 had to be taken out of India to the UAE due to strict lockdowns across the nation, and this means that within six months another IPL is being held, now in India where the second surge has reached unprecedented levels, but of course, complete lockdowns are not the desired goal thus far and travel restrictions are not imposed strictly.


However, the importance of the biggest professional T20 tournament of the world, Indian Premiere League, can only be compared to the inevitability of the elections in the country—one injects the much-needed business into the economy and the other new governments—both being considered desperate, particularly under the present circumstances. The assembly elections in five states should have ideally ended on 6th April 2021, but for West Bengal where desperate reasons needed desperately-long phases of polling that will continue till 29th of April. Further, the world of cricket in entirety, not just the organizers BCCI, has set their eyes on this competition which would be the last major rehearsal for the upcoming ICC World Cup T20 in October-November in India this year. Almost all of the participating nations have sent in their top players for that precious practice. It is also for this reason only that the BCCI could not afford to postpone the tournament, even by a few months.


The eight franchisees—Chennai Super Kings (CSK), Mumbai Indians (MI), Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), Delhi Capitals (DC), Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH), Rajasthan Royals (RR) and Punjab Kings (PK, changed from the earlier Kings XI Punjab). As we mentioned earlier, the matches will be played across six venues with no ‘home team’ tag assigned to any of the teams. The first match of the 14th version of the IPL is set to kick off tonight, the 9th of April 2021, at 7.30 pm in Chennai between defending champions and Rohit Sharma-led MI and India-captain Virat Kohli-led RCB, whereas the second match will take place in Mumbai tomorrow, the 10th of April 2021, between MS Dhoni-led CSK and DC, led by Rishabh Pant in the absence of Shreyas Iyer due to injury, at the same time. On two-match days the first match will start at 3.30 pm, and all the matches are to be played from 9th April to 30th May. The pre-2020 title sponsor, Vivo, has been brought back too.


On the COVID-19 second wave surge, the national daily cases reached 1, 31,968, the highest so far, with a worrying fatality figure of 780 in the last twenty-four hours; out of those cases the worst-affected state Maharashtra accounted for 56286 new daily cases and 376 daily deaths. The following are the others in terms of severity; Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Delhi, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana and West Bengal. This crisis is not at all helped by the currently raging vaccine-shortage controversy: the shortage staring at several states including the crisis-ridden Maharashtra where, as per news reports, around 50 vaccination centres in Mumbai stopped giving jabs from today; and the Government of India has been on a constant denial of any shortage, emphasizing rather on reducing wastage of the vaccines, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi even talked of a vaccination festival during 11th –14th April 2021.


Well, politics and cricket go hand in hand in defining India, and irrespective of the intensity with which we hope for at least a politics-free COVID-19 fight the play (of politics) never left us alone, even during the pandemic as we have seen since May 2020. Now, politics is not going to ebb till the 2nd of May when results of the assembly elections would be announced while the other play (cricket) would continue unabated till May 30 2021. However, in favour of the latter one can say that the worried public, who are basically blamed for their COVID inappropriate behaviour as being the main cause of the surge, will have at least time-pass avenues every evening thanks to the IPL charge.


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