IPL 2021 – Officials back Covid-19 bubble
India’s capital city, affected in a major way by the pandemic, will host matches from next week
There is no plan to shift the IPL 2021 matches scheduled for Delhi, despite that city being one of the worst affected by the current Covid-19 wave. The city recorded more than 300 deaths and 26,000 new cases on April 22, and currently faces an acute shortage of hospital beds and oxygen supplies.
Four IPL teams – defending champions Mumbai Indians, the Chennai Super Kings, the Sunrisers Hyderabad and the Rajasthan Royals – are scheduled to play eight matches there from April 28 to May 8. It is understood that Mumbai would be the first team to land in Delhi, on April 24, followed by the other three teams, who are scheduled to reach by April 26.
The Delhi & Districts Cricket Association (DDCA), which in charge of the Feroz Shah Kotla ground, is putting its faith in the bio-secure bubble created for the IPL. “It is on schedule,” DDCA president Rohan Jaitley told ESPNcricinfo on Friday. “The bubble is absolutely intact. If I am not part of the bubble, I can’t meet anybody [inside it]. It is absolutely safe.”
Jaitley confirmed that all the relevant personnel, including groundspersons, are part of the bubble. “There is a health and safety protocol that is already in place where teams move around in bubbles, they stay in bubbles, practice happens in a bubble, and any and every person who comes in contact is part of the bubble. There is no one who is outside the bubble.”
ESPNcricinfo understands that the IPL governing council has not had any discussion internally or with the franchises about having a rethink on the Delhi leg.
As of Friday morning, as per the official data released by the Indian government, Delhi had over 91,000 active Covid-19 cases, including 13,193 deaths. That the city is in uncertain waters has been explained in public by its chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, who said that almost every third person who has been tested in the capital had returning a positive result. In the past week, Delhi has also been dangerously close to exhausting its oxygen reserves, even as hospitals have run out of space.
While the BCCI is confident that the ground situation in Delhi – as in other cities where the pandemic is raging – would not have any bearing on the IPL, the franchises remained wary. It is understood that some of them have been asked by their medical experts to double-mask at all times and travel wearing full PPE kits.
The players themselves have not expressed any concerns in public yet, though England allrounder Chris Woakes, who represents the Delhi Capitals, has said that it wasn’t an ideal situation. “It’s a shame with the situation at the moment with the people all around the world having to deal with Covid, which isn’t ideal,” Woakes told AFP. “Within the bubble, we are trying to stay positive. We are very lucky that we still get a chance to play cricket and entertain people on the outside.”
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo