Should it get worse from here, the Indian cricket board (BCCI) will have to take an urgent and practical call on whether the tournament needs to continue or take a break for a few days.
TOI has learnt that the BCCI has now approached the Maharashtra state government to “explore the possibility” of shifting the remainder of the tournament to Mumbai.
The board on Monday sent out a statement on two players from the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) franchise being found positive. Soon after, three individuals from the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) franchise, including bowling coach Laxmipathy Balaji, are learnt to have also tested positive. Their rapid antigen tests were negative but Balaji returned positive in another round of RT-PCR tests.
“Balaji was in the CSK dressing room with the rest of the team the other day. IPL SOPs say ‘15 minutes of being inside a closed room before testing positive should lead to immediate contact-tracing’. In that case, won’t the entire team have to go into quarantine?” said a franchise official.
Right now, nobody in the BCCI has an answer to this. In fact, the very thought of an entire team quarantining right in the middle of the tournament is giving the IPL ecosystem a chill in the spine.
After the match on Saturday, several members of the Mumbai Indians franchise were also in the CSK dressing room, where Balaji was present.
“You can’t blame MI if they’re feeling helpless,” sources said.
Right now, three priorities are on the top of the board’s mind: A) Daily testing through RTPCR, swab and rapid-antigen should take place; B) Immediate decision is required on whether Kolkata and Bangalore – where Covid numbers have peaked – should be retained as venues; C) Keep a track on what the overseas players are thinking.
The tests: The responsibility of carrying out the tests lies with the franchises.
“Ask any franchise and they’ll tell you that the BCCI’s own medical Covid officers – four individuals allotted per franchise – have been highly
ineffective. The franchises, in fact, are running pillar to post to gets these tests conducted,” sources said.
One venue, for instance, did not have test kits for rapid-antigen on Monday until a senior BCCI official flew in with the stock.
“The franchises have to depend on their own arrangements,” they added.
The venues: This decision is for the BCCI to consider. The board decided to conduct matches in multiple cities despite crowds not being allowed because they wanted to keep it ‘neutral’.
“Where’s the logic? This is not Test cricket. If you remove the crowd from an IPL game, where’s the home advantage?” said an official.
Franchises do not want to fly to Bengaluru and Kolkata and instead are hoping that BCCI sticks to just one city for the remainder.
“But is the board willing to listen? Almost 50% of Kolkata is positive; Bangalore has gone worse. We’ve been saying this from Day One – airport entry and exit points have been a worry,” franchise officials said.
Overseas players: This is for the BCCI and franchises to work out together.
TOI understands that overseas players in most franchises have “more or less” made up their minds to leave.
That’s the next big thing waiting to hit IPL. It’s in nobody’s hands to stop them if they don’t feel safe right now.
Franchise officials said, “All that we can do is support their safe travel. But can IPL continue in their absence?”