Sanjay Naik, secretary of the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA), is confident that the Wankhede will host all scheduled matches without any hassle, and believes that the Covid scare is minor. Naik revealed that all the ground-staff at the Wankhede will be operating from a secure bubble.
An extremely concerning rise in Covid-19 cases in Maharashtra in early March made many question the sanity of hosting a part of the first leg of IPL 2021 in Mumbai, but a plethora players and other staff, based in Mumbai, returning positive results has seen the Wankhede leg of the tournament come under jeopardy. On Saturday, reports emerged that close to a dozen ground-staff at the Wankhede tested positive a week ahead of the tournament, and sources close to the BCCI, owing to the same, revealed that the board had zeroed-in on Hyderabad and Indore as alternatives to host the Mumbai-leg of the competition.
However, despite the major scare, MCA secretary Sanjay Naik has asserted with confidence that the show will go on. Naik, speaking to TOI, revealed that currently there are ‘no plans’ to shift the matches out of Mumbai, and attested that, from tomorrow, all the ground-staff who returned a negative test result will stay back at the Wankhede and will be operating from a secure bio-bubble.
"Right now, there is no one at the Wankhede Stadium, as it is shut on the weekend. The BCCI will test all our groundsmen on Monday. Those who test positive will be asked to stay at home and get treated, while those who test negative will be asked to stay back at the Wankhede Stadium. They will then be a part of the bio-bubble at the stadium, which means that they will stay at the stadium's premises till the conclusion of the Mumbai leg of the IPL," MCA secretary Sanjay Naik told TOI.
"The BCCI has been testing all our groundsmen at the Wankhede every second day. The matches will be held in a bio-bubble, in an empty stadium. I can assure you that Mumbai will stage all its matches comfortably, and there are no plans to shift the matches out of here," Naik said.
Maharashtra on Saturday recorded 49,447 fresh Covid-19 infections, the highest single-day spike in the state since the beginning of the pandemic, and incidentally it was only after arriving in Mumbai that Delhi Capitals’ Axar Patel contracted the virus. An MCA official claimed that the ground-staff might have contracted the virus owing to them using public transport, and asserted that MCA officials have now asked the staff to stay at the Garware Club, which is situated in the Wankhede premises.
"Perhaps, the groundstaff in Mumbai got infected as they were travelling in public transport to commute from their homes to the stadium. We've now asked them to stay at the Garware Club (situated in the Wankhede premises) till the Mumbai leg of the IPL is done with. The practice wickets at Wankhede are ready, while the match wickets should be ready in two-three days," said another MCA official.
The Wankhede, as things stand, is scheduled to host 10 matches in IPL 2021. The first of those 10 games will be a clash between Chennai Super Kings and Delhi Capitals on April 10.