The Indian Premier League’s bio bubbles have been breached, with two players and a senior coach testing positive for Covid-19, raising further questions over this year’s tournament which is being played out against a backdrop of humanitarian disaster.
As Covid continues to rampage through India, with 368,000 new cases recorded on Sunday, Monday’s fixture between Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challenges Bangalore was postponed after two KKR players, Varun Chakravarthy and Sandeep Warrier, tested positive for the virus.
The two bowlers became the first players to record positive tests since this year’s competition began and players were restricted to secure locations. They were quickly followed by reports that the chief executive of the Chennai Super Kings, Kasi Viswanathan, and the teams bowling coach L Balaji, had also been found positive.
Chakravarthy and Warrier were isolating from their team-mates on Monday night pending the results of a second round of testing. The rest of the KKR players are now to be tested daily in the hope that the team can fulfil their next fixture, scheduled for Saturday.
Greater uncertainty surrounds the Super Kings, however, with Indian media reports suggesting a second test had confirmed Balaji’s positive result. The bowling coach was sat in the CSK dug out during the team’s last match, against Mumbai Indians on Saturday.
IPL rules require close contacts of anyone testing positive to isolate for six days and produce three negative test results before returning to action. CSK are currently scheduled to play on both Wednesday and Friday before the IPL moves en masse from its current bases in Ahmedabad and Delhi to Bengalaru and Kolkata on Sunday. With more movement likely to heighten the risk of infections, there are fears that more cancellations could follow.
The IPL has received criticism for continuing to play while as many as 3,000 people a day have been dying from the virus in India. Concerns over the feasibility of finishing the tournament by the intended final date of 31 May are now rising too, but reports suggest that the Board of Control for Cricket in India are not considering alterations to the tournament at present.
Eleven English players are taking part in this year’s competition, including England’s one-day captain Eoin Morgan, who is a team-mate of Chakravarthy and Warrier at KKR. While India is on the UK’s travel red list, elite sports people are offered exemptions and on Monday the England and Wales Cricket Board said it would not be calling on players to come home.
“We continue to monitor and communicate with our players and staff currently in India”, a spokesperson said. “In terms of continued participation, it will be a decision that will be taken by each individual. We acknowledge these are challenging times and our thoughts are with the people of India.”