There are few sporting competitions that have been as affected by the Covid-19 pandemic as the Indian Premier League (IPL). One of cricket’s flagship events, it draws worldwide attention for its exciting format, elaborately named teams, and non-stop action.
The 2021 IPL season kicked off on April 9 with a bang, as Mumbai Indians, the 2019 and 2020 champions succumbed to Royal Challengers Bangalore in an absolute thriller. It was more of the same for the defending champions, who have become known for starting their seasons slowly.
The competition was off to a good start, with the first few weeks running smoothly and little interference from the pandemic. However, in early May, it was clear that a new wave had hit India, and the IPL’s bio bubble couldn’t withstand the pressure.
After the Chennai leg, the competition witnessed its first departure, as Ravichandran Ashwin of the Delhi Capitals left the tournament in order to support his family through the pandemic. He was the first in a long list of players who eventually excused themselves from the tournament due to Covid-19.
The first full week of May was to be the time that decided the fate of the 14th installment of one of world cricket’s favorite events. On May 3, a match between Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalore was postponed due to the fact that two Knight Riders players had tested positive for Covid-19.
The very same day saw three members of the Chennai Super Kings camp test positive too, including bowling coach Lakshmipathy Balaji. The full Delhi Capitals camp went into quarantine, and Mumbai Indians and Sunrisers Hyderabad skipped their practice sessions ahead of their game the following day. The BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) began discussing whether the remainder of the tournament should be held in Mumbai.
On May 4, the match between CSK and Rajsthan Royals was also postponed due to Chennai players being in quarantine. After two more players from SRH and DC tested positive, the BCCI took the decision to postpone the tournament indefinitely.
While there were suggestions that England would host the remaining half of the tournament, BCCI president Sourav Ganguly announced that the tournament would not be held there, or India for that matter, as the competition would face too many obstacles surrounding quarantine.
It has begun to look more and more likely that the UAE will play host to the remainder of the 2021 IPL season. The UAE has already demonstrated its capabilities for hosting sporting events during the pandemic, successfully hosting IPL 2020, as well as providing the UFC, the MMA’s flagship franchise, with a location for six months, which saw 12 events completed without any hiccups
Moving the competition to the UAE will not come without its challenges, however. Almost 40 players are set to miss the UAE leg if it in fact takes place.
With the suspension of the IPL, bookmakers across the world, from betting shops in the UK to betting sites in South Africa, have removed this year’s IPL from their sportsbooks, and for good reason. It isn’t certain that the competition will continue, and if it were to, it would be heavily influenced by all that has already happened.