The world’s richest cricket tournament, the Indian Premier League, has been indefinitely suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic, officials confirmed on Thursday (16).
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) said the Twenty20 competition, already pushed back from its original start date of March 29, “will only commence when it is safe and appropriate to do so”.
“The health and safety of the nation and everyone involved in our great sport remains our top priority,” BCCI secretary Jay Shah added in a statement.
“BCCI will continue to monitor and review the situation regarding a potential start date.”
A team official told AFP Wednesday the IPL would be indefinitely postponed, but that they would “find a window in the later end of the year to do it”.
India’s government this week extended a three-week lockdown until at least May 3.
Media reports said the BCCI may aim for a tournament in September-October, ahead of the T20 World Cup in Australia.
The pandemic has wreaked havoc on sporting tournaments, with the International Olympic Committee and Japan last month taking the historic decision to delay the Olympics by a year.
Cricketers turned pundits, including England’s Kevin Pietersen, had suggested that the glitzy tournament be shortened from its usual eight-week duration and played behind closed doors.
The league, which began in 2008, is a huge revenue-earner for the BCCI and is estimated to generate more than $11 billion a year for the Indian economy.
– Sri Lanka’s offer –
The participation of the world’s top cricketers has attracted big money. Chinese mobile phone maker Vivo had put up $330 million to be the league’s top sponsor for 2018-2022.
Australian pace bowler Pat Cummins was to be the most expensive overseas star this year, with Kolkata Knight Riders in December agreeing a $2.17 million fee for his services.
Leading foreign players have been pushing for the IPL to take place, with Australia’s Steve Smith saying he hoped the league would be held “at some stage”.
Sri Lanka’s cricket board on Thursday offered to host the lucrative tournament in the island nation, which says it has been less impacted by the virus.
“We have the venues and the resources to hold the IPL in Sri Lanka,” Sri Lanka Cricket President Shammi Silva told AFP.
Silva — who is set to make a formal offer to his Indian counterpart — hopes the outbreak could be brought under control in Sri Lanka, which is currently under an indefinite curfew to combat the spread of the virus.
The cash-rich tournament was twice held outside India due to its dates clashing with parliamentary elections.
South Africa hosted the second IPL edition in 2009, and the first half of the 2014 season took place in the UAE.