The BCCI officials endured some sleepless nights with Covid-19 cases coming over the last few days. With several members among IPL franchises testing positive, the Board had no option but to postpone the tournament. In a chat with The Indian Express, BCCI treasurer Arun Dhumal spoke on this and several other issues. Excerpts:
What happened over the last three days?
We were continuously reviewing the situation with regards to Covid-19 and safety of the players. We had two cases first and then got news that an official and another member of the franchise had been infected. Today, we got to know that a few more players were being tested. So, keeping health and safety in mind, it was best to postpone the tournament. Nothing else matters for us other than safety, it’s the paramount concern.
How did the BCCI react when they heard that Covid had entered the bio-bubble?
The BCCI was worried and we were trying to find out how it happened. The first case we got to know was of Varun Chakravarthy. He was supposed to go for a scan. We felt he might have got infected. Then a second case came in. Now rather than finding out how it happened, all felt that first we should make everyone safe and secure. Safety, at this moment, is paramount for us.
What was discussed in the emergency meeting?
BCCI secretary (Jay Shah) was in touch with everyone, so was IPL chairman (Brijesh Patel). The secretary briefed us about the situation. He told us what was happening and what we can do now. He suggested that looking at the situation, it was better to postpone. Everyone agreed with the secretary’s view. The positive cases happened in supposedly the safest place. The players felt it was the safest place in India but nobody can make predictions about this virus.
Why did BCCI pick so many venues?
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. 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.
Couldn’t the IPL be held in one city?
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.
Didn’t the BCCI want to shift the entire IPL to Mumbai after the positive cases came to light?
It was never discussed. I don’t know where that came from. 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.
How did BCCI look at the criticism of having the IPL during the pandemic?
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.
How will you send the foreign players home?
We stand by our word that for us, the IPL is not complete until our players and officials reach their homes safe and secure. We are working on that and will come out with a detailed plan in two days.
Any window planned for the resumption of the IPL?
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.
What is your estimate on the revenue loss?
At this point, it’s the least of our concerns. We are not thinking about it. Numbers can wait.