Anxiety over IPL 2021 matches in Delhi as coronavirus crisis worsens

Record number of cases in city a cause for concern ahead of next leg of games

Gv of stadium during match 37 of the Vivo Indian Premier League Season 12, 2019 between the Delhi Capitals and the Kings XI Punjab  held at the Feroz Shah Kotla Ground, Delhi on the 20th April 2019

Photo by Saikat Das /SPORTZPICS for BCCI
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The bubble in which the Indian Premier League is operating has, so far, been effective in shielding it from the pandemic that is wreaking havoc across India.

But with each passing day, anxiety in and around the league has increased as coronavirus cases reach unprecedented levels – more than 300,000 a day – and the death toll mounts.

The tournament so far has been restricted to Chennai and Mumbai. Now, the teams move base to the second set of cities – Ahmedabad and Delhi. Bengaluru and Kolkata are the final pair of venues for league matches.

And it is matches in Delhi that is proving to be a cause for concern. The national capital has been hit particularly hard by the recent wave of the virus. On Friday, the city reported 24,331 new cases and 348 covid-linked deaths. The city has reported the biggest daily spikes in covid cases in the country in April.

On top of that, hospitals are facing an acute shortage of oxygen. The situation is grim but the IPL is moving ahead, for now.

Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Rajasthan Royals are scheduled to play eight matches in Delhi from April 28 to May 8.

Rohan Jaitley, president of the Delhi & Districts Cricket Association which manages the Feroz Shah Kotla ground, said matches remain on track.

"It is on schedule," Jaitley was quoted as saying by ESPNcricinfo. "The bubble is absolutely intact. If I am not part of the bubble, I can't meet anybody [inside it]. It is absolutely safe."

Earlier, Delhi Capitals' English all-rounder Chris Woakes had said he felt lucky to be still playing cricket amid the despair.

"It's a shame with the situation at the moment with the people all around the world having to deal with Covid, which isn't ideal," the 32-year-old said in an interview.

"Within the bubble we are trying to stay positive. We are very lucky that we still get a chance to play cricket and entertain people on the outside," he added.

India's coronavirus infections rose by 346,786 overnight, the health ministry said on Saturday, setting a world record for the third consecutive day. With the situation expected to worsen over the coming weeks, IPL franchises and players will be on the edge.