NASSER HUSSAIN: The mistake was staging the IPL in India… it should have been held in the UAE

There was no option other than to call off the Indian Premier League. Not after the bio-secure bubbles had been breached in so many places. Enough was enough. This has become far bigger than a game of cricket.

The players are not stupid nor insensitive. They would have been fully aware of what has been going on in India. They would have seen on their TVs people pleading for hospital beds and oxygen.

They would have seen unused ambulances waiting outside cricket grounds and wondered whether it was right for them to carry on playing. And they would have been uncomfortable.

The IPL ‘unanimously decided’ to postpone the season following a rise in coronavirus cases


So what has happened over the last couple of days made a highly difficult decision for them.

I have seen plenty of people say, ‘Why have they been playing on when the situation has been so serious in India?’ And I can see that point of view.

It has been unedifying at times watching this tournament when people are dying just up the road from there.

But we have to remember last summer when our Covid rates were high and the ECB — with the help of West Indies, Pakistan and Australia — put international cricket on.

There has also been Premier League football throughout the pandemic and I for one have been grateful for that. It has kept me going at the end of many a day in lockdown to know there was a game of football on at the end of it.

And India really does love its cricket. It is everything for their people and it has clearly brought a level of comfort or distraction from what has become a huge crisis. I don’t think we should lecture them on the rights and wrongs of playing on.

Kolkata Knight Riders bowler Varun Chakravarthy is one of two of their player to have tested positive for Covid-19 – forcing the postponement of Monday’s match

The mistake was made in having the tournament in India in the first place. Six months ago they held an IPL in the United Arab Emirates and it went brilliantly. Covid rates were low and no bubbles were compromised. They could have returned there.

Yes, it is easy to say that with hindsight. And India clearly did feel they were through the worst of the virus when they decided to stage this year’s competition.

But when they started to let big crowds in for their matches against England in Ahmedabad earlier this year, with very few signs of masks or social distancing, I did think to myself, ‘Is this the right thing to do? Have they really beaten this?’

The problem now is when on earth will they be able to re-stage it? The calendar is so congested in the next year and it’s one of my big bugbears that cricket seems to think every gap has to be filled. We never leave room for the game to breathe.

The positive tests for Chakravarthy and Sandeep Warrier forced the postponement of KKR’s match with Royal Challengers Bangalore on Monday

There is a suggestion that India’s players will stay in England after their Test series in September and play the rest of the IPL here. Or maybe they can go back to the UAE and try to do it before the Twenty20 World Cup.

But neither option is easy, not with international cricket being played at just about every time outside the IPL window.

I saw on Tuesday the Pakistan Super League, also postponed this year when bubbles were breached, wants to get back on the road in the UAE. How can that be fitted in too? Money talks and I can only assume all these things will be squeezed in somewhere.

I don’t think the ICC need to make a decision on moving that T20 World Cup, due for India in October and November, right now. Yes, India is not a viable venue at the moment but things can change quickly and nowhere is totally safe. Keep the contingency plans for the UAE in place and make sure wherever does eventually stage it is ahead of the curve. The problem now is that India has been behind that curve.

England white ball captain Eoin Morgan is among 11 English players currently taking part in the Indian Premier League as Covid-19 fears mount following positive tests at two teams

What this has shown is how well the ECB did last summer in not getting a single positive test from anyone involved in the international fixtures. We can only hope for a repeat when India’s men and women, Sri Lanka and Pakistan come here this summer.

I have no criticism of the players in all this. All they have done is try to carry on doing their jobs in extremely tough circumstances. But what the ECB and other governing bodies have to do now is get them home as soon as possible, get them back with their families and get a bit of normality back in their lives.

Above all, every sympathy has to be not with the cricketers nor the IPL — it has to be with the people of India. It is a country that has given an awful lot to world cricket and it needs help at the moment. The IPL was a help. But the game really did have no choice.

India has given an awful lot to world cricket and it needs help at the moment with the crisis


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