NEW DELHI: The Indian Premier League was suspended indefinitely on Tuesday after multiple COVID-19 cases were reported in its bio-bubble.
This comes after The New Indian Express had suspended its coverage of the IPL to ensure that the focus was on the ongoing pandemic, which has taken a heavy toll during the second wave.
Here's the full text of the announcement made by our editor on April 25.
India is going through its worst phase of the Covid pandemic. Hundreds of thousands of people are struggling, many in vain, to exercise their right to live, as a ramshackle universal healthcare system proves that it has no answers to the challenges posed by a creepy bug. The health ministry’s daily bulletins of fresh positive cases and fatalities have hit the stratosphere, so have SOS messages from individuals and hospitals seeking oxygen refill and lifesaving medicines.
Hospitals refuse fresh admissions for want of Covid beds. The rush at crematoriums is heart-breaking. Most of us already have friends or relatives who have succumbed to Covid-19 or are battling for life.
In such a tragic time, we find it incongruous that the festival of cricket is on in India, with layers of bio bubbles creating protection.
This is commercialism gone crass. The problem is not with the game but its timing. Cricket, too, must accept that we are passing through an unprecedented crisis. In the circumstances, The Sunday Standard and The Morning Standard will suspend IPL coverage in the newspaper with immediate effect till a semblance of normalcy is restored.
This is a small gesture towards keeping the nation’s attention focused on life and death issues.
We are sure that our readers will see the point. These are times when we must stand as one nation with one resolve.
"The tournament has been suspended indefinitely. We will try to conduct the event in the next available window but this month is unlikely," league chairman Brijesh Patel told PTI.
"The Indian Premier League Governing Council (IPL GC) and Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in an emergency meeting has unanimously decided to postpone IPL 2021 season, with immediate effect," the statement read.
"The BCCI does not want to compromise on the safety of the players, support staff and the other participants involved in organising the IPL. This decision was taken keeping the safety, health and well-being of all the stakeholders in mind," it added.
The IPL said BCCI will do all it can to ensure that players in the event get back to their homes safely.
IPL features stars from England, Australia, and New Zealand among other countries.
"These are difficult times, especially in India and while we have tried to bring in some positivity and cheer, however, it is imperative that the tournament is now suspended and everyone goes back to their families and loved ones in these trying times," the IPL stated.
"The BCCI will do everything in its powers to arrange for the secure and safe passage of all the participants in IPL 2021."
The tournament final was planned for May 30.
The annoucement came after Sunrisers Hyderabad's wicketkeeper-batsman Wriddhiman Saha tested positive for COVID-19.
The development was confirmed to PTI by a source in the SRH team who also said that the entire squad has gone into insolation.
"He had fever and had been in isolation for the past five days. We are also being asked to stay in the room," the source said.
This comes after Wednesday's IPL game between Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals was postponed after CSK bowling coach L Balaji tested positive for the virus.
On Monday, the match between Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalore was also cancelled after KKR bowlers Sandeep Warrier and Varun Chakravarthy tested positive for the infection.
As per the Board's Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), anyone who has come in contact with an infected person has to undergo six days of hard quarantine and return three negative RT-PCR reports during the course of it.
"Tomorrow's match at the Arun Jaitley Stadium between CSK and RR will be rescheduled as per SOP rules. As Balaji was in contact with the players, all of them have gone into hard quarantine. They are supposed to be tested everyday," a senior BCCI official told PTI on conditions of anonymity.
When CSK CEO Kasi Viswanathan was contacted, he said that the team had informed the BCCI about Balaji's RT-PCR result.
"From our end, we had informed that Mr Balaji has tested positive and as per SOP our players have been isolated," Viswanathan said.
All CSK playing members have tested negative during their scheduled RT-PCR tests.
This is the second IPL match to be rescheduled after Monday's Kolkata Knight Riders vs Royal Challengers Bangalore game was postponed owing to a couple of KKR players, Varun Chakravarthy and Sandeep Warrier -- testing positive.
Delhi is hosting Mumbai Indians vs SunRisers Hyderabad clash this evening.
The match remains on schedule for now but there is palpable anxiety as Mumbai Indians had played against CSK as recently as Saturday and Balaji did come in contact of MI players during the match.
Many in BCCI feel that it would have been prudent to even reschedule this evening's game.
"Even MI players are at risk having played CSK. BCCI ideally should reschedule today's game also. Normally symptoms start showing mostly on 6th or 7th day after you have come in contact of the infected person," the BCCI source said.
Speculation is also rife about a possible shift to Mumbai for the remainder of the tournament but some logistical concerns are in the way.
"What do you do for seven days of hard quarantine for multiple hotel staff as you would need at least four hotels to create a new bio bubble," the official said.
If the tournament is moved to Mumbai, then Kolkata and Bengaluru would be missing out on their quota of games.
Another view is to keep the games in the venues currently being used -- Delhi and Ahmedabad.
"If you see when matches were being held in Mumbai and Chennai, things were under control. The trouble started after teams began were travelling from one city to another," a franchise official said.
The spread of infections had led to postponement of two IPL games earlier.
There was cause of concern in Delhi too as a few groundsmen at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium tested positive even though DDCA chief Rohan Jaitley asserted that "none of the groundsmen on duty" were among the infected.
Just days before this, three Australian players had pulled out of the league, citing COVID-19 concerns amid a devastating second wave of the global pandemic that has overwhelmed the medical infrastructure of the country.
The 2020 IPL had also been held in a bio-secure bubble in the UAE and at that time, infections were only reported before the start of the tournament.
India is currently recording over 3 lakh cases everyday and more than 3,000 daily deaths.
(With PTI inputs)