Cricket veterans find October most suitable for IPL 2020

India’s biggest cricket event has been suspended till 15 April due to the COVID-19 scare.

MUMBAI: The Indian Premier League (IPL) has been the talk of the town ever since it was cancelled for the first time on account of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cricket enthusiasts and all the stakeholders, including the brands associated with the league, are eagerly awaiting an outcome: postponement or an outright cancellation. Cricket veterans Harbhajan Singh, Ashish Nehra and Sanjay Manjrekar joined the conversation on the IPL’s future during a talk show, hosted by Jatin Sapru, called Cricket Connected, on Star Sports channels and Hotstar.

Discussing the possibilities about the IPL, the cricket legends, sharing a common view, hoped that India’s biggest domestic tournament will be held in the near future. For the first time ever, the Board of Control for Cricket in India has suspended the sport-entertainment event till 15 April. However, it seems like the lockdown is likely to continue and the chances of holding the IPL anytime soon look bleak.

As COVID-19 has forced to scrap almost all sporting events across the globe, sports broadcasters are trying alternatives. Cricket Connected is one of the by-products of Star India’s strategy to lure the sports enthusiasts to its channels. The new show will have both English and Hindi versions and will be shown every Saturday at 7 pm, starting from 4 April.

The players discussed three windows: May-June, August-October. With the rising cases in India, the first seems most unlikely. The panel considered the second and third option via video call discussions.

These possibilities can only be considered if there are changes in the cricket calendar of the year. In August, Caribbean Premier League, Asia Cup and England home seasons are scheduled, whereas the International Cricket Council T20 World Cup is scheduled in October.  

“If choices are given, October would be more preferable than August, as the month falls under the rainy season,” former pacer Ashish Nehra, who last played for Sunrisers Hyderabad in 2016, pointed out. “Also, if things normalise by June-July, a buffer of two-three months would help the tournament to regain momentum and settle the dust of the virus completely and cricket enthusiasts will also be seen on the stands cheering for their respective teams.”

It has also been speculated that the stakeholders are thinking of holding a close-door stadium tournament. In this regard, Chennai Super Kings spinner Harbhajan Singh said: “As a player, I’ll definitely want the audience to be present on stands, but under the given circumstances, I don’t mind playing without spectators.”

“There’s a possibility that we most likely will miss the vibe while playing closed-door matches as the audience builds enthusiasm and excitement for the game. They are important stakeholders during a live sporting event,” Singh said in his comment.

Singh was replying to a Twitter user’s question, who asked about the closed-door option with hashtag #AskStar way before the chat show was scheduled.

Comparing the IPL’s postponement with the tenth standard exam, the batsmen-turned-commentator Sanjay Manjrekar believes that it won’t be cancelled, just postponed till COVID-19 ends. He said: “The moment we get clearance from all the authorities, IPL should kick-start the economy, as there are many people making a livelihood out of it.”

Estimates are that close to $1.5 billion is riding behind the IPL in terms of advertising, sponsorships and ticket sales. Global advisory Duff & Phelps estimates a huge loss of at least Rs 1000 crore if IPL gets cancelled due to the pandemic.

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