‘I think we will have some form of IPL this year’ – Rajasthan Royals owner

India

With number of infected cases due to the COVID-19 pandemic on the rise in India, Manoj Badale, majority owner at Rajasthan Royals, feels the prospect of a “shortened” tournament is increasing, but even that would be subject to collaboration between the BCCI and other cricket boards.

Badale also said that he would prefer some form of IPL this year, including a version that is played just between the Indian players in case their overseas counterparts cannot join in.

Responding to the directives from the Indian government recently, the BCCI postponed the IPL until April 15. A prompt start, though, looks highly unlikely with the world’s second-most populous country under lockdown till April 14 to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, which has infected over 800,000 people worldwide.

The BCCI had met the IPL owners earlier this month to update them on the plans to keep the tournament alive. The owners were also told they would be on a weekly call to review the situation as it develops, but the lockdown has complicated matters.

Talking to BBC Worldservice last weekend, Badale admitted that the IPL “pales into insignificance in terms of things we should be really be thinking about right now,” but pointed out the owners had been in touch with BCCI to find a solution.

“We have a number of calls as owners with the BCCI to talk about what those plans might be, but it is clearly going to be postponed and it is unclear at this stage whether or not it takes place later this year,” he said.

The number of COVID-19 cases in India is currently over 1200, including 32 deaths, but the country is bracing for a surge in those numbers. Badale, who lives in the UK, which is one of the pandemic’s hot spots with over 1000 deaths, said India would not be able to escape the “profound” impact of this disease.

Asked about the possibility of the BCCI deferring the IPL and carving out another window later this year, Badale said: “The cricket calendar is so packed. There are very few gaps especially for a seven-week tournament, so I suspect even if a gap can be found, it would have to be a shorter tournament.

“And the uniqueness of the IPL is it gets the very, very best around the world so it is not just a collaboration between the BCCI, the owners and the Indian government, you need the collaboration of the other cricket boards as well. Because what makes the IPL special is the presence of not just the Kohlis and the Dhonis, but also the Stokeses and the Warners and the Butlers.”

With every cricket board being forced to postpone their bilateral and domestic events, it is unlikely they would grant permission for their key players to participate even in a shortened IPL if it were to be played later this year. Would the Royals be happy to feature in an event comprising just Indian players?

“If it was a choice of no IPL or a domestic player-only IPL I would choose the latter,” Badale said. He also pointed out it would still be possible make up some “very compelling teams” with just the Indian players although his preference was for a combination of the “very best in the world” with the “very best in India.

“I think we will have some form of tournament this year. It will probably be a shortened tournament,” Badale added. “As long as people are prepared to be creative and as long as boards are prepared to work together collaboratively, it [IPL] is hugely important to the game of cricket. It is not just of importance to the Indians that the IPL takes place.

“It is important for the whole game. It is [important] economically for some of the best players in the world. It is economically meaningful for the event organisers and for the broadcasters that participate. So the trickle down effect of a tournament as big as the IPL not taking place in terms of its impact on more than just the players but (also) all the people whose livelihoods depend on it is pretty significant. So we have a responsibility to try and a find a way of playing it if we possibly can.”

The IPL has previously been able to adjust to difficult circumstances like in 2009 when the entire tournament had to take place in South Africa because it coincided with India’s general elections. For the same reason, part of the 2014 edition was shifted to the UAE at short notice.

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