Indian Premier League could be moved out of country due to coronavirus, admits tournament chairman

The UAE has already made it known its venues would be available to host the glamour competition this year

The Indian Premier League could be moved out of the country if the coronavirus pandemic does not ease in the next two months, according to tournament chairman Brijesh Patel.

Pandemic cases have surged in the nation of 1.3 billion people. India now has the fourth highest caseload in the world, concentrated in major cities such as Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai which are cricket hubs.

The world's wealthiest Twenty20 tournament has twice been held outside India in years that it clashed with national elections.

South Africa hosted the second IPL in 2009, and the first half of the 2014 season took place in THE UAE.

The UAE has made it known its venues would be available for any major cricket – from the IPL to English county matches – later this year.

The Sri Lankan cricket board have also shown interest in hosting the tournament this year.

"Let us first see, we will try to stage it in India and if the situation does not allow then we will certainly look at other options," Patel told AFP on Friday. "We will see how the situation is in the next month or two and then take a call accordingly."

Patel said the IPL is still looking at a window ahead of the T20 World Cup in Australia, which is scheduled for October-November.

But the International Cricket Council has deferred taking a decision on the fate of the T20 showpiece event because of pandemic worries.

"We are looking at a September-October window for the IPL, but it depends on the other tournaments as well," said Patel, who played 21 Tests for India, said.

"Nothing certain at the moment, but we are keeping our plans in place to make the IPL happen."

BCCI treasurer Arun Singh Dhumal that the tournament could be held behind closed doors if that is the only way to get it underway. "If it can be with spectators, we'd ideally want that," he told Reuters on Friday.

"But if we have to stage it in empty stadiums and there's no other choice, we might go for that. We'll try and work out depending on the situation at that point in time.

"But before anything else, we have to have a window available and a clear-cut directive from the government [to go ahead]."

The IPL is usually a seven-week tournament, although BCCI president Sourav Ganguly has said he expects it to be shortened this year.

The Asia Cup, which will be a T20 event, is also scheduled to be held in September with UAE and Sri Lanka as possible hosts.

The IPL should have started on March 29 but it has been repeatedly postponed because of a nationwide coronavirus lockdown which is only gradually being eased.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has been working on contingency plans to save the event, although these have had to remain fluid as the situation evolves.

Ganguly said this week that the board wanted to hold tournament this year even it means playing in empty stadiums.

The BCCI would suffer losses of more than than $530 million (Dh1.946 billion) if the IPL is scrapped. The league is a huge revenue-earner and is estimated to generate more than $11 billion for the Indian economy.

The pandemic also jeopardises this year's T20 World Cup with hosts Cricket Australia conceding the tournament was under "very high risk".

The BCCI has said it would consider slotting IPL in that window should the World Cup be postponed, but the International Cricket Council would not take a call on the fate of the flagship tournament until next month.

"Whatever decision has to happen should happen well in time," Dhumal said. "If that tournament is not happening, other boards can decide whether they want to have some bilateral tournament or something else to make up for the loss they have incurred because of the pandemic."