Rising infections, increasing deaths, new variants and more lockdowns have put a question mark next to sporting events.
South African all-rounder Chris Morris has become the most expensive Indian Premier League cricketer after Rajasthan Royals paid $2.25m for him.
Taking centre stage in a high-spending auction for this year’s tournament, the fee smashed the record $2.2m paid for Yuvraj Singh by Delhi in 2015.
Australian bowler Pat Cummins had previously been the most expensive foreign player, costing Kolkata Knight Riders $2.17m in 2019.
“The most expensive player in IPL history is now a Royal,” Rajasthan said as it trumpeted the signing of Morris, who will join a team including England stars Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes.
“It was quite a high price, but at the same time, the role in the team and the demand for the role plays a large part,” Royals’s director of cricket Kumar Sangakkara said.
The 33-year-old Morris is a fast bowler and hard-hitting lower order batsman. He has played for Rajasthan previously, in 2015.
He has played 42 One-Day Internationals and 23 Twenty20 matches for South Africa, and has claimed 80 wickets in 70 matches in the IPL.
He played for Delhi in 2018 and 2019 and then for Royal Challengers Bangalore last year.
In a sign that IPL clubs are eager to invest in top international stars despite the coronavirus pandemic, Australian all-rounder Glenn Maxwell went to Royal Challengers Bangalore for $1.95m after another intense auction.
The 32-year-old Maxwell was released by Punjab Kings after just one season. Punjab had paid $1.5 million for him in 2020.
Former Australia captain Steve Smith went to Delhi Capitals for $300,000 after being released by Rajasthan Royals.
Three-time IPL champions Chennai, led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, got England spin bowler Moeen Ali for $950,000 – more than three times the fee paid when he was last at auction in 2018.
Moeen, 33, returned to England this week after playing a key role in the second Test defeat by India in Chennai.
India captain Virat Kohli is believed to have the biggest IPL salary, earning some $2.7m a year at Bangalore in 2018.
He has never been part of the auction.
This year’s season is expected to start in April.