Covid crisis casts major shadow over rest of IPL 2021 season

Positive results and fear of more breaches put question mark over safety

Powered by automated translation

The remainder of the IPL season is in doubt after two Kolkata Knight Riders players tested positive for Covid.

Varun Chakaravarthy and Sandeep Warrier returned positive results in the latest round of PCR testing.

The franchise stated that all other players had tested negative, with contact tracing immediately underway, and testing now to take place on a daily basis.

The news led to the postponement of the scheduled Monday evening fixture between Kolkata and Royal Challengers Bangalore in Ahmedabad.

However, the IPL organisers stated the match will be rescheduled, despite increasing calls to postpone the event given the surge in Covid cases across India.

There were 368,147 new cases reported across the country on Monday, which was the 12th day in a row in which cases had exceeded 300,000.

Although the tournament looks set to continue for now, there is an increased sense of unease among both playing and broadcast personnel.

Following the news about the Kolkata duo, it was widely reported a number of Chennai Super Kings personnel, including chief executive Kasi Viswanathan and bowling coach Lakshmipathy Balaji, had also tested positive.

Subsequent reports suggested further testing had revealed those to be false positives, although the franchise issued no clarification on the issue.

In addition, five members of the groundstaff in Delhi were reported to have tested positive for the virus.

The Kolkata breach is said to have emanated from a hospital visit by Chakaravarthy for a scan on his shoulder. Both he and Warrier are now isolating.

"The medical team is in continuous touch with the duo and are monitoring their health,” the IPL organisers said in a statement.

"Meanwhile, the Kolkata Knight Riders have now moved towards a daily testing routine to identify any other possible cases and treat them at the earliest.

"The medical team is also determining the close and casual contacts of the two positive cases during the 48 hours prior to collection of the sample that returned the positive test results.

"The [Board of Control for Cricket in India] and the Kolkata Knight Riders prioritise the health and safety of everyone involved and all measures are being taken in that endeavour."

Last week, the BCCI had assured the players they would be safe as the tournament continued, in spite of the escalating health crisis in the country.

“We would assure you that you are totally safe within the bubble,” Hemang Amin, the BCCI’s interim chief executive had written in an email to the players.

“When you all walk out onto the field, you are bringing hope to millions of people who have tuned in.

“While you are professionals and will play to win, this time you are also playing for something much more important: humanity.”

Travel restrictions

Despite Amin’s missive, a number of overseas players have left to return to their home countries, including the two Australians, Kane Richardson and Adam Zampa.

In the time since they left, Australia’s government has tightened restrictions on travellers from India.

The country suspended direct passenger flights from India last week. The ban, to last until at least May 15, still allowed people to fly in through a third country until Saturday, when the new measure announcing a full ban closed that loophole.

The government has threatened to punish breaches with fines of around $50,000 and five years’ imprisonment.

A number of Australians have stayed on at the IPL, with the likes of fast bowler Pat Cummins and commentator Brett Lee pledging substantial financial donations to the aid effort.

Michael Slater, the former Test star who is a commentator at the IPL, is furious with the new policy that means no clear route home for the Australians in India.

“If our government cared for the safety of Aussies they would allow us to get home,” Slater wrote on Twitter.

“It's a disgrace. Blood on your hands [Prime Minister Scott Morrison]. How dare you treat us like this?

“How about you sort out quarantine system? I had government permission to work on the IPL but I now have government neglect.”