BCCI Treasurer Arun Dhumal revealed that the board were pleased with how the England series panned out, and hence wanted to host IPL 2021 across multiple cities to ‘boost the spirit of the country.’ Dhumal confirmed that at no point did the BCCI mull the option of hosting IPL in one city.
The 2021 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) met with a tragic end earlier this week as a major Covid outbreak forced the BCCI to temporarily call the tournament off. After the tournament completed 29 games with little trouble, a first COVID-19 case emerged on Monday, April 3, and all hell broke loose after that as players and staff from multiple franchises ended up contracting the virus to ensure that the tournament came to an abrupt halt.
Amidst all this, the decision of the BCCI to host the tournament across multiple states - which forces air travel, increasing the risk of contracting the virus - has come under scrutiny and now, for the first time, the board have revealed in public why they chose to do so.
Speaking to the Indian Express, BCCI Treasurer Arun Dhumal revealed that the board were delighted with the trial run that was the England series, and hence wanted to “boost the spirit of the country” by taking the IPL to as many cities as possible. Dhumal admitted that the board did not foresee the second wave wreaking havoc and asserted that they would have moved the competition overseas had they known that the second Covid-19 wave could ravage the country.
“In a normal scenario, we would have had more venues, like Indore and Pune. They also used to host IPL games. When we were conducting the England series, everything went so smoothly that we thought that it’s time to take cricket back to each zone. At least, the main centres of India. The IPL should have been played in all areas. We all thought that after what the country went through in 2020, the IPL will boost the spirit of the country,” Dhumal told Indian Express.
“We conducted a dummy run and planned out things. When the England series was conducted in Ahmedabad, Chennai and Pune, the situation was far better. As things went so smoothly, we all were quite confident that we will be able to conduct the IPL smoothly. Who would have imagined such a situation will arise? Had we known, we could have held the IPL overseas. It was during the time when things were getting normal that we took the call. We were quite confident that we will pull it off.”
Dhumal also confirmed that at no point did the BCCI even discuss the option of hosting all matches in Mumbai (or one particular city). The BCCI Treasurer further confirmed that reports earlier this week that suggested that the BCCI were planning to finish IPL 2021 in Mumbai (across three venues) were completely false.
“It was never discussed then because nobody knew what was coming. What was the guarantee that if we had hosted it in one city like Mumbai, there would have been no cases? When we started, Mumbai was the worst- affected city. Then too, there would have been criticism. At that point of time, this was the best option we had.
“Shifting the IPL back to Mumbai wasn’t viable or possible in such a short span of time. Setting up a new bubble takes around 14 days. Who can predict at this moment that a particular city is safer? Any city can see a spike at any point of time.”
The second wave of Covid-19 was in its embryonic stages when IPL 2021 kicked off, but three weeks into the tournament, the country was in the midst of a full-blown crisis, with people dying on the streets due to a shortage of oxygen and unavailability of hospital beds. The IPL, thanks to the way it was broadcast, was hence condemned by many for being tone-deaf, but Dhumal described the people who were critical of the competition as “experts in criticising.”
“There are people who are experts in criticising. That is their expertise. We believe in doing the best we can. It’s a hallmark of BCCI and we tried our best. We don’t go by people’s criticism. We gave it our best shot,” Dhumal said.
Reports have already emerged that the BCCI are looking at a September window to potentially resume the tournament, but Dhumal revealed that no meetings have been held regarding the issue.
“We haven’t discussed anything as all our focus is now on ensuring players, support staff and officials reach home safely. When a window is available, we will hold it.”