Rising infections, increasing deaths, new variants and more lockdowns have put a question mark next to sporting events.
The Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament will begin in Chennai on April 9 and will be played across six venues, initially without spectators.
The world’s richest Twenty20 competition was shifted to the United Arab Emirates last year as India grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sunday’s IPL governing council meeting decided to bring the tournament home but the pandemic forced several changes to how it would be played.
“The IPL this year at home will be played behind closed doors to begin with and a call on allowing spectators will be taken at a later stage of the tournament,” Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) secretary Jay Shah said in a statement.
Ahmedabad’s Narendra Modi Stadium will host the playoffs as well as the May 30 final, with Bengaluru, Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata being the other venues.
Defending champions Mumbai Indians will take on Royal Challengers Bangalore, led by India captain Virat Kohli, in the opening match.
🚨 BCCI announces schedule for VIVO IPL 2021 🚨
The season will kickstart on 9th April in Chennai and the final will take place on May 30th at the Narendra Modi Stadium, Ahmedabad.
— IndianPremierLeague (@IPL) March 7, 2021
“The fixtures have been mapped in a way that every team will travel only three times during the league stage, thus reducing commute and minimising risk,” Shah said.
“After hosting the tournament safely and successfully in the UAE last year … the BCCI is confident of hosting the IPL at home with health and safety of players and all people involved being paramount,” he added.
It will be a 52-day tournament with 60 matches in total.
The news comes just days after neighbouring Pakistan had to suspend its Pakistan Super League (PSL) after seven team personnel – including p[layers – tested positive for COVID-19.
Authorities had given permission for the PSL tournament to increase crowd sizes from 20 percent to 50 percent stadium capacity despite Pakistan recording more than 590,000 cases of COVID-19 and at least 13,200 deaths.