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English counties ‘target IPL hosting rights’

A group of English counties has reportedly made an offer to host the remainder of the 2021 Indian Premier League (IPL), with Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president, Sourav Ganguly, stating that failure to complete the suspended competition is likely to lead to a loss of INR25bn (£244.1m/€281.1m/$339.2m).

The 2021 IPL season was suspended with immediate effect on Tuesday after a number of positive COVID-19 cases were reported among teams. The decision was taken following an emergency meeting of the governing council of the IPL and the BCCI. The season got underway on April 9 in Chennai and was due to conclude at Ahmedabad’s Narendra Modi Stadium on May 30.

As the BCCI grapples with the challenges of attempting to resume the season amid a worsening COVID-19 situation at home, along with accommodating it in a packed global cricket calendar, the ESPNcricinfo website has today (Thursday) reported that England is being targeted as a potential solution.

The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), Surrey, Warwickshire and Lancashire, which are based at Lord’s, the Kia Oval (both London), Edgbaston (Birmingham – pictured) and Emirates Old Trafford (Manchester), respectively, are said to be part of a group that has written to the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) asking them to extend the invitation to the BCCI.

Their plan is said to centre on completing the 2021 IPL in around a fortnight during the second half of September. This timing would potentially allow the tournament to play out in front of full stadia, according to the UK government’s current COVID-19 reopening plan.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), which hosted last year’s IPL, has also been touted as a potential host for the remainder of this season’s competition, with Ganguly stating that the BCCI would conduct a “post-mortem” of what led to the suspension.

Ganguly told Indian newspaper The Telegraph: “I really don’t know what led to this situation inside the bio-secure bubble. We will have to do a post-mortem and look into the reasons behind this. But travelling could have been an issue.

“Last year in the UAE, everything was restricted to three venues and within a limited area. There was no air travel involved. Here we had six different venues. You also have to look at the situation around the country. The way the number of people are getting affected on a daily basis is total madness. No one knows what is going to happen tomorrow. Things have gone out of control for everyone.

“When we started the (2020) tournament in Dubai, there were close to 700 cases in the UAE which increased by a few hundred in the later stages. Here it’s close to 4 lakh (400,000) today. This proliferation of COVID-19 cases has been a major issue.”

Ganguly admitted that “a lot of shuffling” will be needed to find a new window for the IPL to resume, adding that early estimates indicate a loss of close to INR2,500 crore (INR25bn) should the tournament not be completed.

Regarding how the IPL’s bio-secure bubble was breached, Ganguly told the Indian Express: “The report we got is that there’s no breach of the bubble. How it happened is very difficult to say. How so many people are getting (infected) in the country is also very difficult to say.”

Ganguly also defended the decision not to reappoint Restrata to handle bubble arrangements for this season’s IPL, after the UK company did so for last year’s event in the UAE. He said: “We discussed their name, but they don’t have a big presence in India, that was the problem. So we went with others.

They are all professional hands. Professional hands around the world can’t control it (the virus). When it (the second wave) was happening in England, there were cases in the English Premier League. Manchester City, Arsenal players got infected. Matches got rescheduled.

“Because their season is six months long, they can do it. But our season is tight. Since we have to (release) players to their respective countries, rescheduling was very difficult.”