New Delhi: Strict COVID-19 protocols in Abu Dhabi, one of the three emirates scheduled to host the IPL matches from September 19, has hamstrung the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). The world's wealthiest cricket board is currently in talks with the governments of the emirates, desperately seeking concessions.
And because of the COVID-related problems in organising the 13th edition of the IPL, the BCCI has not only not announced the schedule of matches, but has also not shared its plans with the eight franchises.
"The BCCI hasn't told the franchises anything yet about the IPL schedule. But for us franchises the IPL is on as of today, because if the IPL was not to happen this year the BCCI would have told us much earlier. The franchises have spent a lot of money on their teams. Positive cases will continue to emerge," a source in a franchise told IANS from the UAE.
"The point is that if the BCCI has to cancel the IPL they need to cancel it today. They can't cancel it after 15 days. The franchises are here in the UAE and have spent so much money on their teams. Also, when we have called our players for the IPL, we will have to pay them as well. In the event of a cancellation, we can't tell the players that since you didn't play matches we wouldn't pay you. All that will have to be taken into consideration. Presently, BCCI officials are talking to the local governments of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah," the franchise official informed.
Indian Premier League Governing Council chairman Brijesh Patel and interim BCCI CEO Hemang Amin are in the UAE and are in talks with the three emirates governments to seek some concessions in the strict COVID protocols for the IPL and then chalk out a workable plan.
Another source said if one is going from Dubai to Abu Dhabi COVID-testing is done at the border and it takes up to two-and-a-half hours. Alternately, one has to produce a certificate of a negative result of a test done within the last 48 hours. "But you do not expect the likes of Dhoni and Kohli to stand in the queue for that long. So, BCCI is trying to get permission to do COVID tests on IPL squad members in their hotels," he said.
At the same time, all franchises have become extra cautious after thirteen Chennai Super Kings (CSK) members, including two players, tested COVID-19 positive in the UAE. Players and coaching staff come out of their hotel rooms only for practice/training/yoga sessions and for some recreational activities that a few franchises, like Mumbai Indians, have created. But breakfast, lunch and dinner are being served in their rooms. All that is being done within the established local COVID protocols.
"We are taking all the precautions after the CSK episode. Initially, we had thought that we would take the team out for a few team dinners sometime during the tournament. But that plan has been shelved. Now, it is only bubble, and bubble, and bubble. All meals are being served in the squad members' rooms; it's only room service now," a franchise official said.
Abu Dhabi has the strictest protocols of the three emirates where the IPL is to be played. It has virtually sealed all its entry-exit points, and is allowing people to enter only after they furnish proof of their negative COVID-19 test results.
The opening match of the IPL, between champions Mumbai Indians and runners-up CSK, is expected to be played in Abu Dhabi on September 19. If all the pieces do not fall into place by that time, then the BCCI would have to make further changes in plans, and maybe cancel the Abu Dhabi leg altogether.
The delay in the announcement of the IPL schedule has prevented STAR India, the official broadcaster, from finalising their plans for the coverage. It was planned that separate crews would be stationed in each of the three emirates, due to the pandemic, to cover the matches. Meanwhile, one person who would have been part of STAR's production team has tested positive in India and has been grounded. All in all, the situation on all fronts is fluid, and everyone is keeping his fingers crossed.