The much-hyped cricket tournament, IPL 2021 season has rolled into its second leg, with matches being staged in Ahmedabad and Delhi. However, the prevailing Covid-19 crisis in India has prompted many voices from around the world to speak about the tournament being incongruent with the situation in the country. India has been marred by a deadly second wave of the virus which has wreaked havoc across states with over 3.5 lakh people testing positive on a daily basis. The death toll has been mounting as thousands continue to succumb to the virus each day.
Several news agencies from around the world, while reporting on the status of players from their countries currently in India playing in the IPL, questioned the need for the IPL 2021 season to be staged in present circumstances.
Former England footballer and television commentator Gary Lineker said it is “terribly wrong” for the IPL to continue amidst such a “catastrophe”. “People are dying faster than runs are being scored for crying out loud,” he exclaimed in a tweet.
“The Indian Premier League should not continue given the horrific Covid crisis in India due to Prime Minister’s woefully irresponsible leadership. The country’s sole focus should be on the raging pandemic. Cricket is irrelevant “ said British television host Piers Morgan.
In these testing times, a string of players decided to cut short their IPL 2021 stints amidst rising COVID-19 cases in India despite the tournament being conducted in safe and secure bio-bubble across six cities in India. The matches are also being played behind closed doors to safeguard the players and support staff from getting exposed to the virus.
Nonetheless, many have already left the tournament and returned home to be with their families by cutting short their stints with their respective teams. So far as many as five players including senior Indian spinner Ravichandran Ashwin have pulled out of the league amid the worsening COVID-19 situation in India.
Rajasthan Royals batsman Liam Livingstone was the first player to pull out of IPL 2021 citing bio-bubble fatigue. Livingstone was part of the Royals’ squad but had not played a single game for the franchise. He returned back home after spending the majority of the last ten months playing cricket in bio-secure bubbles across the globe.
Andrew Tye, one of the other overseas players to have walked out of the tournament, said: “I just thought I’d get on the front foot and get home before I got locked out of the country… Looking at it from an Indian view, how are these companies and franchises, and the government, spending so much money on the IPL when there are people not being able to get accepted into hospital?”.
Australian spinner Adam Zampa also left the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021 midway to return home to Australia. He and his Australian compatriot Kane Richardson left the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) bio-bubble together last week to return back home. Richardson and Zampa had been lucky with their timing, announcing their decision to leave India 24 hours before Australia announced a three-week pause on all direct flights from India.
Senior spinner R Ashwin is the only Indian player to have opted out of IPL 2021 midway so far due to COVID-19 concerns. Ashwin in his message on Twitter stated that he wants to be with his family in these testing times and support them in their fight against COVID-19. Ashwin had played all five games for DC before opting for the break.
Australian counterpart Paul Reiffel’s attempts at leaving hit a dead end because of his country’s suspension of air travel with India. In Reiffel’s case, the Australian government’s imposition of a travel ban on flights to and from India in the wake of the rising COVID-19 cases here led to him being unable to leave the bubble after initial information suggested that he has made the move.
India’s top umpire Nitin Menon has also pulled out of the IPL due to personal reasons. It is learned that Menon, a resident of Indore, has left the IPL bio-bubble after his wife and mother tested positive for COVID-19.
However, despite these players choosing to return home midway through the IPL and a growing chorus calling for the tournament’s postponement because of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has decided against suspending the league. A Board official privy to developments said on condition of anonymity that “the tournament will continue as planned, at least for now”. “We do understand these are tough times and we will try and facilitate the travel of players who are leaving for various reasons and their replacements, if any, in consultation with the franchises,” the official said.
Meanwhile Rajasthan Royals (RR) bowler Jaydev Unadkat has decided to donate 10 percent of his Indian Premier League (IPL) salary towards providing essential medical resources for those affected by the coronavirus. Unadkat on Friday shared a video on Twitter and informed about his decision of donating a portion of his IPL salary to help India fight the ongoing coronavirus crisis. “I am contributing 10% of my IPL salary towards providing essential medical resources for those in need. My family will make sure it reaches the right places. Jai Hind!” Unadkat tweeted.
Punjab Kings batsman Nicholas Pooran has decided to donate a portion of his IPL salary to help people in India fight the pandemic. “Although many other countries are still being affected by the pandemic, the situation in India right now is particularly severe. I will do my part to bring awareness and financial assistance to this dire situation” tweeted Nicholas.
Punjab Kings took to Twitter to announce that they have pledged funds towards providing oxygen concentrators across the country. “To help the fight against #COVID19 in India, #PBKS has pledged to provide oxygen concentrators with the help of @roundtableindia! We also request everyone to join in and help in whatever way possible because together, we can! #SaddaPunjab #Unite2FightCorona”.
The Australian Cricket Media Association too came forward to help the country fight the pandemic. They have made a donation of $4,200 to help India battle it out against coronavirus.