The Indian Premier League could be played behind closed doors as a consequence of the latest coronavirus, an official told AFP on Thursday, as demands arose to postpone or defer the richest tournament in the world.
Cricket leaders will meet on Saturday to determine if the Twenty20 Top International Player Tournament will commence as planned on 29 March.
The risks are immense. The 60-game league is estimated to raise more than $11 billion a year for the Indian economy and Chinese smartphone manufacturer Vivo has invested $330 million to be the sole partner for 2018-2022.
“We’re eager to launch the IPL on time even if it means without crowds,” a senior BCCI official told AFP under anonymity.
“It might be a TV-only since it’s a medical problem because we can’t do something about it.”
The Control Board for Cricket in India, which has already cut bonus money for the champions and runners-up, needs to launch the league on schedule. Yet officials say they’re going to have to fall in line with anything the government directs.
In addition to a increasing number of virus cases— which doubled to 62 in four days — new visa limits on visitors could shut the door to 60-plus international stars such as David Warner of Australia and Ben Stokes of England.
The official stated that following the virus concern, other matches are being played in India. India will launch a one-day series against South Africa on Thursday, and Afghanistan will match Ireland in three Twenty20s this month.
“Of course, we want the players and fans to be safe and take every step to keep the game running smoothly,” the official added.
The Maharashtra state government has already asked Mumbai Indians, the defending champions, to pause the selling of tickets for the opening gala game against the Chennai Super Kings.
Maharashtra has called on the central government to sanction all games held without spectators— as several European football leagues are doing now.
“Human life has much more importance than the IPL,” said Rajesh Tope, Minister of Health for Maharashtra.
Karnataka Province, host to Virat Kohli’s Bangalore Royal Challengers, requires the league to be absolutely scrapped, reports said.
Some advocacy groups have taken cases to the Supreme Court and courts in Chennai and Mumbai to avoid the team.
Thus far, players have stayed out of the fight for a lucrative tournament. India Test Vice Captain Ajinkya Rahane said the BCCI and IPL teams had “latest responses.”