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WILL THE IPL RETURN IN COVID-RAVAGED 2021?

Thirty-one matches remain to be played in the tournament, which was suspended indefinitely last week following a number of COVID cases.

IPL 2021 future
The IPL was suspended indefinitely last week following a number of positive coronavirus cases among the teams. (Credit: BCCI)

Though it was always a slim possibility, the BCCI president Sourav Ganguly ruling out a window in July in England to host the remainder of IPL 2021 has piqued interest in where and when the most feasible window and venue could be this year.

There are nearly six weeks from the time the inaugural ICC World Test Championship final ends and when India play hosts England for the first of five Tests. In recent days, England had been muted as a possible host for the remaining 31 matches of IPL 2021, which was indefinitely postponed last week after multiple cases of COVID-19 inside the tournament’s bio-security bubble.

There is a month from the end of India’s Test series in England until the start of the World Cup, which is a possible window to slot in the 31 IPL matches that remain. Ganguly, however, has ruled this out while confirming that India – at least some sort of representative team – will visit Sri Lanka for ODIs and T20Is in July.

“No … India is supposed to go to Sri Lanka for three ODIs and five T20Is (in July). There are lots of organisational hazards like 14-day quarantine. It can’t happen in India. This quarantine is tough to handle. (It’s) too early to say how we can find a slot to complete the IPL,” he said on May 10 to Sportstar when asked about the IPL resuming in July after the World Test Championship final.

IPL COVID
COVID-19 restrictions mean it is impossible to play cricket in India. (Credit: BCCI)

Last week, while stating that a failure to restart the IPL this year would incur a £245m loss for the BCCI, Ganguly had said that the tournament organisers were exploring a possible restart in September. However, any such plans but this looks very tough to squeeze in.

From June to November, as per the ICC’s Future Tour Programme, the confirmed series include WTC final from June 18 to 22 between India and New Zealand, a five-Test series between hosts England and India from August 4 to September 14, a T20 tour of Pakistan by England and the T20 World Cup from mid October to mid November.

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Unconfirmed series include a limited-overs tour of Sri Lanka by India in July, a T20I tri-series involving Australia, West Indies and Afghanistan and tours by England and New Zealand to Bangladesh in October.

The postponement of the IPL has also all but ruled out India hosting this year’s ICC T20 World Cup, scheduled for October-November, as on Monday India officially became the epicentre of the global pandemic. The whole of the 2020 IPL was played in the UAE because of COVID-19, and the BCCI had last week confirmed the region would host the remaining 31 matches of IL 2021 if the tournament was moved out of India. Sri Lanka is another country that has reportedly offered to host the IPL.

The IPL was never likely to to return to India given the second wave of the COVID-19 virus that is ravaging parts the country and sending death counts significantly upwards in recent weeks. India has recorded more than 22.6 million coronavirus cases and 246,116 COVID-related deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University data, though experts believe the real death toll could be far higher.

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