The Board of Control for cricket in India president Sourav Ganguly is giving enough indication that the Indian Premier League 2020 is a foregone conclusion, except for an announcement on record. For which, neither the BCCI nor stake holders will be in any hurry.
The IPL Season 13, which was to start later this week, was first deferred till April 15. As the Coronavirus had plunged the nation into a complete lockdown, April 15 is the last possible date the BCCI might think of the possibilities of the league this year, which in any case will have to have a start date of May 1 to see the light of the day this year. There remains precious little hope of a May 1 start. Beyond that there is no way the BCCI and the stakeholders will be in a position to go ahead with the league in calendar year 2020.
InsideSport is highlighting five strong factors, which compel the IPL 2020 to be a non-starter:
Uncertainty Over COVID-19 : Prime Minister Narendra Modi has himself enforced a three-week lockdown in the entire country, which has forced the 1.3o billion countrymen indoors till April 14 except for essential services or extreme emergencies. Nothing can be predicted about the situation beyond the three-week deadline. Even if situation improves, normalcy will be a far cry in time to come.
“Sports and leagues will be the last thing on the mind of country’s administrators and India incorporation, which will have to work overtime to get the nation back on wheels,” says sports business veteran Ashish Chadha, Chief Executive, Sporty Solutionz. “A nod from three Ministries – Sports, Home Affairs and External affairs – is essential to set the league rolling. Will they be in a position? There are State security matters. Will the top cops be in a position? Then there is corporate, brands who are the supply line for the entire league’s eco-system. Will they focus on regrouping their production or trade lines or marketing and sponsorship initiatives?
“In the current scenario, for all practical purposes, you will need good three to four months to think of anything beyond core issues after the full normalcy returns.”
Even if the clampdown is lifted, there is no way normalcy is going to return. It will take weeks if not months to let people go scot-free after the last positive case is reported in the country. Take the case of Wuhan, the epicentre of Coronavirus attack. Even as there are no cases reported this week, all business is still under lockdown in the province.
International Calendar: International cricket commitments will be another major concern. India itself has to visit Sri Lanka for in June-July for three One Day Internationals and as many T20 Internationals. Then there is Asian Cricket Council Asia Cup. There will be strong Members Participation Agreement (MPA) obligations to fulfil. International Cricket Council’s Fixed Tours Programme also puts MPA obligations on other national teams for bilateral series. At least 70% to 80% of top national squad members from the leading international cricket teams have IPL contract. Overseas players’ absence will affect the balance of the teams, leaving the league to a basic national level tournament. Broadcaster, sponsors, fans will have little interest in such an event.
Sponsors and Brands: Coronavirus-enforced lockdown is going to leave a severe economic impact on the world. Brands and companies will have to bear the brunt of decline in production, poor purchase power in a dwindling economy with lakhs of jobs under threat and higher obligations to mitigate the commercial impact of the COVID-19 menace. This will leave sponsors with little or no interest and resources to fulfil their commercial commitments towards IPL central pool, franchisees or broadcast sponsorships, which are the backbone of the entire eco-system of cricket world’s richest league.
Grounds: Lockdown means there is no routine maintenance work on the grounds and pitches as all ground staff and curators are confined to their homes. With summers round the corner, the groundsmen will need extra time and resources to make the fields ready for action. According to several leading curators, it will take at least a fortnight or even more of exceptional effort to make the grounds and pitches worth an IPL match, which calls for high standards of cricket.
Logistics: Last but not the least, logistics of 360° operations of the league will be the ultimate challenge. An IPL does not just attract foreign players, but the broadcast production staff, match officials, broadcast equipment come from across the world. Countries have put strict travel advisories in place for their nationals. Flights are cancelled and borders are sealed. All existing visas and e-visas have been cancelled by the Union of India. In such a scenario to get all logistics in place even if the BCCI thinks of conducting a curtailed league on a short notice will be a real practical issue.
Ganguly, a seasoned pro who has seen the league from close quarters over the years in different capacities, is well aware of these factors. That’s the reason, that he remains non-committal on any questions about IPL 2020.