On April 3 (Saturday), Maharashtra registered 57,000 new cases for the first time while India witnessed the record of most fatalities due to Covid-19 in a single day in 2021. The Maharashtra government, on Sunday, even announced a weekend lockdown in the state from 8 pm on Friday to 7 am on Monday in a bid to curb the growing numbers of Covid-19 cases in the state after the Chief Minister hinted at a possible lockdown to curb the spread of the virus.
In such a scenario, Mumbai being one of the hosting cities for a period of 15 days has become an even bigger challenge than earlier. Sure enough, the state government have BCCI’s back with written confirmation that no measure would impact the IPL matches in Mumbai, and bio-bubbles around the world have shown that it is possible to carry on with the sport, but now that three players and organizing members have tested positive, it is difficult to process how the narrative could stick to its original dictum.
BCCI Vice-president Rajeev Shukla yesterday revealed that Indore and Hyderabad have been identified as the back-up venues but any last moment switch would mean a huge logistical inconvenience - both for the BCCI and the broadcasting crew. With the Indian Premier League just four days to go, this is a massive challenge and almost an impossible one at that.
"Everything will go on as per schedule," BCCI President Sourav Ganguly told ANI, on Sunday.
"We have had a call from the city municipal commissioner. The association has been assured that the lockdown measures will have no impact on the IPL games. The other cricketing activities will, however, have to be immediately stopped. Any cricket activity that is part of a bio-secure bubble will be permitted uninterrupted,” a member of the MCA told Cricbuzz.
Mumbai Cricket Association is confident of pulling off the show after a small blip and restarting the process all over again. It would mean testing all the groundsmen once again and making them a part of a separate bio-bubble at the Garware Club (situated in the Wankhede premises) till the Mumbai leg of the IPL is over.
"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 on Saturday.
"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.
Just like last year, the broadcasting crew involved in the studio production will be staying in a separate bio-bubble as do the commentators and crew members who will be traveling to the venues. All the bubbles operate with the same process and procedure but that would keep Restrata Technologies - the company responsible for building the bio-bubble in the IPL 2021 - on their toes.
“That’s the concern that coronavirus cases are rising. That’s why BCCI has already taken all the precautions. That's why only six venues have been kept and bio-bubbles have been created. The number of members of the squad has also been increased, keeping in mind that in the future if the coronavirus case rises then all the precautions can be taken,” Rajeev Shukla was quoted as saying to ANI.
All said and done, this much can be said that the BCCI and every single stakeholder will have a long 50-odd days awaiting them. How they navigate through this perilous situation and make the 14th edition of the Indian Premier League a massive success would come down to the efficiency of the bio-bubble as well as how the current Covid-19 situation plays out.