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IPL 2021 in limbo, will it get a follow-on?

31 matches still remain to be played in this year's tournament.

KERALA: With the ongoing edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021 suspended indefinitely due to the devastating second wave of Covid2019, the fate of the rest of the tournament now hangs in the balance. 29 out of the 60 games have been played so far, while 31 matches still remain in the current season. 

The decision to postpone the IPL comes at a time when a host of brands bank on the tournament for their marketing initiatives and many were already in the process of launching new promotional campaigns. 

With the bio-secure bubble pierced by the Coronavirus, several players and support staff contracting the infection and the country in the throes of a full-fledged Covid crisis, it is anybody’s guess whether the IPL 2021 will be back for a second innings.

Possibilities of rescheduling the IPL 

Last year, due to the Covid outbreak, the IPL was played in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with no in-stadia audience. Even though all the games were played in empty stadiums, the 2020 edition was a great success in terms of television viewership. With a total of 400 billion viewing minutes on TV, IPL 2020 clocked a substantial jump in total consumption over IPL 2019, which witnessed 326 billion viewing minutes. 

As India is a country where cricket is considered an emotion among millions, BCCI may think to adopt the same strategy to resume the suspended 2021 edition of the league. It should be noted that June and July are monsoon months in India, and it will be practically impossible to host cricket tournaments during these months. Moreover, the possibility of a Covid third wave is also compelling the BCCI to consider other venues like the UAE. 

"The suspension of IPL within four weeks is an indicator that it's not really safe to host a global event of that magnitude at a time when the country is fighting its worst health crisis in the last 70 years. There is a chance of a third wave hitting the Indian shores in November. So while BCCI will remain the hosts, the tournament will probably shift to the UAE," a top BCCI official told PTI. 

BCCI vice-president Rajiv Shukla said, "We will see if we can get any suitable time for the IPL event later in the year. It may be September, but for now, it will only be speculation. The situation as of now is that we are not organising the tournament." 

Shukla also assured Star Sports that the tournament is not cancelled, but postponed, and made it clear that the ongoing 2021 edition will be revived when the situation improves. 

"In due course, when the Covid situation improves, a decision will be taken about it,'' he reportedly told broadcasters Star Sports.

A possible revival of IPL 2021 will happen only after the World Test Championship final between India and New Zealand from 18 to 22 June 2021. In all probabilities, BCCI will likely wrap up the remaining 31 matches of the IPL before the ICC Men's T20 World Cup that is expected to begin on 18 October. 

IPL provided much-needed relief to Indian audiences.

Even though the IPL received mixed reactions from people amid the second wave of the pandemic, industry experts strongly believed that cricket matches in the evening provided much-needed relief to Indian audiences. The TV ratings of IPL matches this year were also unabated, and some matches featuring top teams like Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Mumbai Indians (MI) witnessed record viewership. 

"One must also acknowledge that while it was ongoing over the last few weeks, the IPL provided three to four hours of much-needed diversion and relief to the Indian masses who are reeling under a barrage of bad news on the Covid front. Secondly, the value of any enterprise is based on its future cash earning capacity. To our mind, while there will be some revenue loss this year, the future revenue generation ability of the IPL is undiminished," said Duff & Phelps MD & head - valuation advisory APAC Varun Gupta. 

Australian players stranded in India

Meanwhile, Cricket Australia (CA) has made it clear that it will not seek exemption from a government-imposed travel ban for flights from India. It was around a few days back that the Australian government temporarily barred its citizens from entering the country if they happened to be in India within 14 days of their scheduled arrival. 

"CA and the ACA respect the decision of the Australian Government to pause travel from India until at least May 15 and will not seek exemptions," said CA and Australian Cricketers' Association in a joint statement. 

However, Cricket South Africa (CSA) said that they will make all necessary arrangements to expedite all players safely from India. 

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