The Indian Government, while implementing a fourth period of lockdown, have allowed sporting activities to take place, albeit behind closed doors. The BCCI wholehearted welcomed the government’s decision, but told ESPNCricinfo that thinking about the IPL at this point would be premature. The lucrative T20 League though, can take place subject to travel restrictions being eased and a window being found for the tournament.
While extending the countrywide lockdown by a further two weeks until May 31, in a directive listing activities that would continue to be prohibited or allowed, the Indian government announced, “Sports complexes and stadia will be permitted to open, however, spectators will not be allowed.”
To further stress on the point that gatherings of all kind would not be allowed, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) stated, “All social/political/sports/entertainment/academic/culturual/religious functions/other gatherings and large congreagtions” will continue to remain prohibited. All domestic and international air travel, “except for domestic medical services, domestic air ambulance and for security purposes or purposes as permitted by MHA,” also remains prohibited.
Arun Dhumal, the BCCI treasurer, said in a media statement released by the BCCI that for cricket activities to restart, travel restrictions within the country would need to be eased. The statement read, “Taking into the account the restrictions on air travel and movement of people till May 31, the BCCI will wait further before organising a skill-based training camp for its contracted players. The board reiterates that the safety and well being of its athletes and support staff is paramount and will not rush into any decision that can hamper or jeopardise India’s efforts in containing the spread of the virus.”
When asked whether the BCCI would now start thinking about conducting the IPL later this year, Dhumal told ESPNCricinfo that it was too early to think about the tournament. He said a window would first need to open up in the cricket calendar in addition to governments worldwide allowing international travel so that overseas players’ participation could be guaranteed.
The IPL franchises concur with the BCCI’s cautious optimism. One franchise chief executive said the government’s decision today would “have an impact” on the BCCI, which can now, he said, “present a case to have the IPL.”
Overall, cricket will take a while to resume locally with various prominent states such as Maharashtra and Karnataka still under complete lockdown. Although the BCCI has discussed conducting individual training programmes wherever possible once travel restrictions are loosened, some of the stadiums have been handed to local governments to be utilised as quarantine centres for those infected by the coronavirus.
“The BCCI will study guidelines at the state level and will work in sync with state cricket associations to chalk out a programme for skill-based training at a local level,” Dhumal said.
The India men’s side’s next scheduled assignment is a tour to Sri Lanka in July, which includes 3 ODIs and T20Is. Dhumal confirmed that Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) had written to the BCCI expressing its eagerness to host that series, but without permission from the Indian government to travel, it is far too early to predict whether that series will go ahead or not.