The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a number of sporting events to be cancelled or postponed this year, and cricket has been not been an exception. Many bilateral tours are suspended at the moment, but the biggest casualty in the cricket calendar for 2020 has been the Indian Premier League (IPL) which has meant the best bookmakers online in Nigeria are looking for cricket elsewhere.
The IPL is the biggest, baddest, most lucrative cricket league in the world, with millions of fans thronging stadiums in India between April and June to watch some of the biggest stars of world cricket battle it out. It is also extremely sought-after from a player’s point-of-view, with massive paydays and the opportunity to play with and learn from some of the giants of the game, such as Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, Rohit Sharma and AB de Villiers, while the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Jacques Kallis, Brendon McCullum, Stephen Fleming and Anil Kumble are all on the coaching or management teams of various franchises. It is also a huge venture commercially and financially, with the BCCI making the vast majority of its revenue from the tournament, and the broadcast rights and sponsorship slots being sold for many millions. It is even one of the events which sees a huge surge in betting in India, despite the practice being illegal in the country, with many websites like 1xBet Nigeria offering odds on the entire tournament, all the matches as well as the different award categories for players.
However, this year’s IPL has been put into serious doubt due to the coronavirus, with the Indian government having put the entire country into lockdown since 21st March. This lockdown has been extended thrice now, with the latest guidelines being released on 17th May, which continued the nationwide lockdown till the end of the month. While this phase has eased restrictions, with stadiums and sports arenas allowed to be reopened and to host events but without spectators, it is still unlikely that the IPL will return any time soon.
The BCCI treasurer, Arun Dhumal, went on record soon after the latest government guidelines were announced, stating that hosting the IPL was out of the question as long as domestic and international travel restrictions remain in place. As part of the lockdown, the Indian government had shut all train and flight travel in the country, as well as international flights to and from India, and these restrictions remain in place, despite certain other relaxations with respect to travel in buses and cars. At the same time, he stated that stadiums being reopened will allow cricketers to resume training individually, as group and team training sessions are still out of the question.
However, some people are of the opinion that the IPL will definitely be held this year, as it is too lucrative for the BCCI, and thus it will use its considerable influence at the ICC to move other tournaments and series around to create space in the calendar. One of the potential casualties of such an approach could be the T20 World Cup, scheduled to be hosted by Australia between October and November this year. There are logistical and health concerns around hosting any global sporting event this year, and so it may make more sense to move the World Cup and have the IPL during that window instead. It remains to be seen if these plans come to fruition, however, one thing is certain in that cricket fans globally are definitely missing one of the biggest events on the cricket calendar at the moment.