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Indian Premier League 2021

Breaches, positive tests and confusing tweets: how Covid-19 infiltrated the IPL

IPL Covid
Aadya Sharma by Aadya Sharma
@Aadya_Wisden 3 minute read

With less than a month to go before the scheduled final, IPL 2021 has been suspended indefinitely, amid a sudden surge of Covid cases inside the team camps.

Despite repeated assurances from the organisers that the IPL bio-bubble would stay intact through the ongoing second wave in the host nation, the tournament had to be suspended after the virus invaded multiple team set-ups. As of now, the tournament is suspended indefinitely, with BCCI making the decision to keep “the safety, health and well-being of all the stakeholders in mind”.

Here’s how the exact events unfolded:

March 7: Four months after the conclusion of the 2020 edition, the full schedule for IPL 2021 is announced, with six shortlisted venues in India hosting the matches behind closed doors. The organisers also suggest that spectators could be allowed at a later stage.

Apri 1: KKR batsman Nitish Rana tests negative for Covid-19, three days after testing positive. Two days later, DC all-rounder Axar Patel tests positive, with news also coming in that RCB’s Devdutt Padikkal was quarantining at home after returning positive. Upon his arrival, Daniel Sams tests positive after an initial negative result.

April 6: MI scout Kiran More tests positive, soon after reports that three members of the groundstaff in Mumbai have tested positive.

April 9: The first game of the season is played between RCB and MI at Chennai. India’s new Covid-19 cases on that day stand at 145,384.

April 20: RR’s Liam Livingstone is the first player to leave the tournament after it begins, citing bubble fatigue. Four days later, his teammate Andrew Tye also flies home.

April 26: Australian duo Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson, part of RCB, decide to exit the tournament ahead of concerns regarding the closing of borders in Australia due to Covid0-19 restrictions.

The same day, Ravichandran Ashwin, too, withdraws from the IPL, tweeting that he wished to be with his family and extended family who were putting up a fight against Covid-19. He keeps the door open for a return at a later stage.

April 28: Speaking to Sydney Morning Herald after returning home, Zampa calls the IPL bio-secure bubble as “probably the most vulnerable” among those he has played inside. He later clarifies that there was a fear of ‘vulnerability’, and “nothing to do with the feeling that the virus would enter the bubble at any stage”.

Aprili 29: Umpire Nitin Menon pulls out of the tournament after his family members reportedly test positive. Fellow umpire Paul Reiffel too attempts to fly back home, but is grounded due to the suspension of flights to Australia.

May 3: Reports suggest a possible bubble breach, suggesting that players in the KKR camp have fallen ill ahead of their match against RCB. The Australian journalist Peter Lalor tweets “Tonight’s game off in IPL. Player in Pat Cummins KKR tests positive. Nightmare” – the missing apostrophe after “Cummins” mistakenly leads some to interpret that the Australian quick tested positive, causing widespread confusion.

Later, it’s announced that two KKR players Varun Chakravarthy and Sandeep Warrier have tested positive in the third round of testing, the first instance of Covid-19 inside the bio-bubble. KKR asks its entire staff to mandatorily quarantine for the next five days. Reports suggest that Chakravarthy reportedly made a hospital visit through an official green channel for scans on his shoulder, where he might have contracted the virus. The RCB-KKR match is postponed.

Later in the day, news comes in that three non-playing members of the CSK contingent – bowling coach L Balaji, CEO Kasi Viswanathan and a bus cleaner, test positive. A day later, CSK announce that Balaji and a member of the travel staff have tested positive and are isolating.

May 4: SRH wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha tests positive. The RR-CSK match, scheduled to be held on May 5 is postponed. DC spinner Amit Mishra too reportedly tests positive.

Soon after, BCCI announces the postponement of the tournament with immediate effect, insisting that it “will do everything in its powers to arrange for the secure and safe passage of all the participants in IPL 2021”. Just a week ago, the BCCI’s interim CEO had assured all franchises and stakeholders, assuring “that you are totally safe within the bubble.”

India’s daily Covid-19 tally on May 3 stood at 3,57,316.

With no contingency plan in place, it remains unclear if the remainder of the tournament will at all be played this year.

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