The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) will not shy away from calling off the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) if the situation arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic worsens.
A day before the governing council meeting in Mumbai, the BCCI was forced to “suspend” the tournament till April 15. A fresh window is being worked out from April 16 and matches will have to be completed by May 24 because of bilateral commitments of different nations.
“We don’t know how the situation will be in another fortnight. If it worsens, we may have to call off the tournament this time. First priority has to be safety of all concerned,” a top-ranked BCCI official told The Telegraph on Friday.
This follows a directive from the sports ministry and the ministry of external affairs that banned public gatherings on Thursday.
BCCI president Sourav Ganguly reached the Cricket Centre in Mumbai around noon and met secretary Jay Shah and IPL governing council chairman Brijesh Patel to take stock of the situation.
The franchises were also taken into confidence shortly before it was made public through a media release. The trio interacted with the likes of Shah Rukh Khan (Kolkata Knight Riders), Parth Jindal (Delhi Capitals), Akash Ambani (Mumbai Indians), N. Srinivasan and Kasi Viswanath (Chennai Super Kings) and Ness Wadia (Kings XI Punjab), among others.
According to sources, the franchise owners made it clear that the IPL cannot happen without the overseas players. It was decided that it would be prudent to “suspend” the meet till April 15 to “allay fears”.
The owners and their representatives have again been called to the Cricket Centre on Saturday before the governing council meeting.
In its statement, the BCCI said the suspension was a “precautionary measure”.
“The BCCI is concerned and sensitive about all its stakeholders, and public health in general, and it is taking all necessary steps to ensure that, all people related to IPL including fans have a safe cricketing experience,” the release said.
This newspaper had mentioned on Friday that the BCCI was looking at postponing matches till mid-April as an option.
The tournament is now likely to have more double headers on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays to accommodate all the matches.
The franchises are not too keen on an abridged version since that would affect their revenues.
The BCCI president and secretary is also learnt to have met the official broadcasters and discussed a plan B. If things improve, some of the matches could be held without spectators in the initial stages with resumption of gate sales May onwards.
“Everyone wants the tournament to happen but not when human life is at risk. We have to take a wait and watch policy,” the source said.