“Players would have seen unused ambulances and wondered whether it was right for them to carry on playing” – Nasser Hussain

Former England captain Nasser Hussain hailed the Indian cricket board’s (BCCI) decision to indefinitely suspend IPL 2021. He further backed the players and support staff, saying they were affected by the grave situation outside their bio-bubbles and hence should not be labelled as insensitive.

The BCCI top brass pulled the plug on the tournament on Tuesday (May 4) after the secure bio-bubbles were breached and Covid-19 positive cases emerged in at least four of the eight franchises. While acknowledging the magnitude of the problem, Nasser Hussain stated that the IPL evolved into much more than just cricket.

“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,” Nasser Hussain wrote in his column for the Daily Mail.

In addition to the six Covid-19 positive cases that rocked the cash-rich league within two days, a far bigger blemish on the tournament was Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) spinner Varun Chakravarthy going to a hospital for shoulder scans – in accordance with the permitted green corridor – and then playing a game against the Delhi Capitals (DC) last Thursday. There hasn’t been any confirmation whether the 29-year-old isolated himself after his hospital visit.

The participants faced considerable backlash from fans for continuing to play in a country reeling under the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Several players were even asked about their stand on the same during post-match press conferences. Nasser Hussain, though, begged to differ.

“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,” he exclaimed.

“It has been unedifying at times watching this tournament when people are dying just up the road from there. I won’t criticise the players, but it had to be called off,” Hussain, who scored 8,096 runs in 96 Tests and 88 ODIs, added in this regard.

Notably, five players – Ravichandran Ashwin, Adam Zampa, Kane Richardson, Andrew Tye and Liam Livingstone – had already parted ways with IPL 2021 last month, citing either personal reasons or bubble fatigue.

“The mistake was made in having the IPL in India in the first place” – Nasser Hussain

The Mumbai Indians lifted their record fifth IPL trophy in Dubai last year [Credits: IPL]
The Mumbai Indians lifted their record fifth IPL trophy in Dubai last year [Credits: IPL]

If the players faced criticism for supposedly being insensitive to the dire situation in India, BCCI drew a lot of flak for staging the tournament in the country, despite being warned of the vicious second wave.

Nasser Hussain too shed light on the shortcoming, opining the authorities should have stuck to the plan of hosting it in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – a country which has fewer Covid-19 cases and deaths and where it was smooth sailing last year.

“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,” Hussain explained.

29 of the scheduled 60 matches were completed before the tournament’s suspension, with the Rishabh Pant-led Delhi Capitals (DC) sitting pretty at the top of the table with six wins from eight matches. Should IPL resume, it would be interesting to see if DC can sustain their winning momentum and go on to lift their first IPL crown.

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