Sporting events falling prey to the pandemic

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05 May 2021 | 12:11 PM staff

Sporting events falling prey to the pandemic

IPL 2021 now finds itself in a list of major sporting events affected by the COVID-19 pandemic

The inevitable has happened. Right from the dreaded news of a COVID scare in a team came about on Monday, May 3rd, a possible escalation was on the cards. With reports of players testing positive from four teams camped in both locations – Delhi and Ahmedabad, the BCCI opted for the pragmatic move to suspend the tournament indefinitely. 

The IPL 2021 now finds itself in the league of several tournaments that were affected by the pandemic. Below are some of the major events postponed/cancelled as the virus became rampant since March 2020 -

1) NBA: 2019-20 season

On March 9th 2020, Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz jokingly touched every microphone and recorder on the stage during a press conference to send a message of fearlessness about the virus. Little did he know about the chain of events he triggered. Two days later, he tested positive for the virus and on March 11, 2020, the National Basketball Association (NBA) announced the suspension of the 2019–20 season following his test results.

The initial suspension was for 30 days but the remainder of the season was played out much later - from July 30 to October 12 - in a bubble at Walt Disney World in Florida.

2) Major League Baseball: 2019-20 season

Slated to begin on March 26th 2020, the training leading up to the season was cancelled on March 12th and the tournament was initially delayed by two weeks. 

A season curtailed to 60 games as opposed to 132 in a regular 30-team season began on July 23rd. However, COVID-19 outbreaks in six teams resulted in the postponement of as many as 40 games after the resumption.

3) Olympics 2020

On March 24th, 2020, the sporting world felt the biggest impact of the pandemic when the Tokyo Summer Olympics were postponed by a year. While the two World Wars resulted in the cancellation of three editions of this global event, this is the first time in the history of the Olympics that it has been rescheduled. 

Scheduled for 23rd July to 8th August 2021, the Olympics this year will be the first of its kind when international spectators – including the family of participants – will not be allowed. The local audience from Japan will be refrained from cheering or shouting. To avoid the hassle of re-branding, the event will retain the name Olympics 2020. However, with a surge in COVID cases in Japan, people have taken to the streets demanding a cancellation of the event.

4) Tennis

Like a lot of other events, it was the first since the Second World War when Wimbledon was cancelled in 2020. The French Open last year had to be moved to late September but it made no difference to Rafael Nadal who won the clay-court Grand Slam for the 13th time.

The biggest furore in the tennis world due to the pandemic was during the Australian Open in 2021.

A few positive tests in flights coming from Los Angeles, Abu Dhabi and Qatar resulted in 72 players put into hard quarantine for 14 days by the Melbourne authority. Other players in less stringent quarantine were allowed five hours of practice. This resulted in a few players being understandably upset about being at a disadvantage. World Number One, Novak Djokovic managed to win his 18th Grand Slam title but not before miffing the authorities with a "list of demands" while in quarantine.

5) Cricket

i. PSL 2021

The 2021 edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) had almost reached the halfway mark in the league stage when the season had to be suspended, owing to seven positive Covid-19 cases, out of which, six were players. 

The seven cases were identified in a space of four days - after 11 games in the tournament - following which the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) conducted a meeting with the franchise owners and the decision of suspending the tournament was taken. Daniel Christian, the Karachi Kings all-rounder had reportedly left the tournament a day prior to the big announcement. 

This was the second time in a row when the PSL season had to be suspended. The 2020 season of the competition was also postponed midway and the four playoff games were played in November 2020. 

The 2021 season is now scheduled to continue from June 2 with the final on June 20. After a number of players deemed themselves unavailable for the upcoming leg, a fresh replacement players draft was held. The venue for the remainder of the games is undecided. While PCB identified Karachi as a possible venue, the franchises have requested the leg to be held in the UAE, after a sudden surge of Covid-19 cases in Pakistan. 

ii. England tour of South Africa, 2020

England’s white-ball tour of South Africa in 2020 was going smoothly until a sudden Covid-19 outbreak before the first ODI ended the tour prematurely. 

The opening ODI had to be rescheduled three times in four days, the first occasion of which happened an hour before the toss, after a South Africa player tested positive. Rescheduled for two days later, the game was postponed again after positive tests from the hotel staff. Later on, there were two unconfirmed positive tests from the England camp which suspended the first ODI for the third time. 

Ultimately, the ODI series was postponed indefinitely. It was a part of the 2020-2023 ICC Cricket World Cup Super League cycle. 

The two suspected cases from the England camp turned out to be false alarms and the team flew back home via chartered flights. 

iii. IPL 2021

Coming to the flavour of the month, much like PSL, the India Premier League (IPL) 2021 was also halfway through in the league stage when a number of Covid-19 cases brought the tournament to an inopportune halt. 

The ripple effect of the arguable bubble burst began a few hours prior to Match 30, between Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalore, when the news of a couple of Kolkata players returning positive Covid-19 tests broke out. The fixture was immediately rescheduled.

The situation turned worse as a number of individuals in Chennai Super Kings’ staff also tested positive. Meanwhile, news came from Delhi, the venue for Match 31 between Sunrisers Hyderabad and Mumbai Indians, that five ground staff members were tested positive. However, it did not have any effect on the fixture except for both Mumbai and Hyderabad teams skipping their practice sessions for the day and opting to isolate instead. 

But matters went out of hands when the Hyderabad wicketkeeper-batsman, Wriddhiman Saha also returned a positive Covid-19 Test. Amit Mishra, Delhi Capitals’ leg-spinner fell to the same fate. 

With positive cases from four franchises in a matter of two days, the BCCI had no option but to suspend the season indefinitely. 

Besides these, some other major tournaments to be postponed before they could be commenced are the ICC T20 World Cup in 2020 and the ICC Women’s ODI World Cup 2021. Meanwhile, Ranji Trophy, India’s premier domestic first-class competition, was scrapped for the first time since its inauguration in 1934. The pandemic also affected the football leagues across Europe in 2020 which were later played out without spectators.

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Indian Premier League, 2021

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