As a result of the current Covid-19 crisis in India, the Indian Premier League (IPL) has been suspended indefinitely.
“While we have tried to put in some positivity and cheer,” tournament organizers said in a statement on Tuesday, “it is important that the tournament be now suspended and everyone returns to their families and loved ones in these difficult times.”
It’s unknown when and where the cricket match, which draws the best cricketers in the world on lucrative contracts, will resume.
According to figures released by the health ministry on Tuesday, the number of coronavirus cases in India has now surpassed 20 million, with 357,229 cases registered.
Despite the withdrawal of some high-profile players and demands for a postponement, organizers had pressed forward with the tournament until Tuesday.
The IPL had been running under strict bubbles as teams traveled around the country between games; for the Sunrisers Hyderabad matches, this included wearing full PPE on an internal flight to Delhi.
However, the game’s managers were under pressure to do more as cases spread across the country and hospitals ran out of oxygen and critical medicines.
Organizers met with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for an emergency meeting this week, and the tournament was unanimously suspended.
“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,” read the statement.
The IPL is the world’s sixth most valuable sports league, behind the NFL, the Champions League, and Europe’s four major domestic soccer competitions, according to Forbes. Some argued that postponing or canceling the tournament would have a financial and social cost.
“There’s a whole ecosystem that the IPL sustains … providing livelihoods to a couple of million Indians, if not more,” Indian cricket journalist Boria Majumdar told CNN Sport, before the suspension was announced.
“We are talking about a huge economic system here. By stopping the IPL what do you do? You plummet the nation into more gloom, talk about more debts and more pandemic.”
The Broadcast Audience Research Council of India found that viewing increased by 15% during the first week of last season’s IPL, with 269 million people tuning in across 21 channels to watch seven matches.
Nonetheless, some fans were uneasy that the tournament had continued until the suspension was announced on Tuesday.
“It doesn’t make me feel good. I’ve seen a lot of lives being lost,” Oswald Dsouza, 55, a passionate cricket fan from Bangalore, told CNN Sport last week.
“On one side, you have people losing their precious lives and on the other you’re talking about entertainment and commercial cricket. Yes, I also love the IPL but lives do matter at the end of the day. What’s the point with going on with IPL when we have so many lives lost.”
Many foreign players who are currently in India for the tournament will decide to return home now that the postponement has been verified.
However, they could be subjected to weeks of quarantine as a result of countries around the world limiting travel to and from India as the number of cases continues to rise.
Under Australia’s Biosecurity Act, anyone who has been in India for 14 days prior to Monday, including Australian citizens, is now barred from entering the country.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia denied that the arrivals ban is racist and downplayed the possibility of jail time for those who break the law.
Around 9,000 Australians in India were registered with the government on Monday, expressing their desire to return to Australia.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) told CNN Sport that it was in touch with its players and staff in India as preparations for their return were being made.
“The ECB understands the BCCI’s decision to postpone the competition for the safety and wellbeing of those involved, and thanks the BCCI for its commitment to do everything in its powers to arrange for the secure and safe passage of all those taking part in the competition,” read an ECB statement.
“Our thoughts remain with the people of India during these challenging times.”