COVID-19 has wreaked havoc all around and it hasn't spared the cricketing world either. The Big Bash League (BBL) has been adversely affected by it and despite multiple COVID-19 cases in various teams, the Australian T20 league hasn't stopped. Matches are being postponed, rescheduled, pushed and preponed constantly with only a few hours before the scheduled start. It makes any kind of .
There are some teams that even had 10-12 COVID-19 cases and they had to revamp their entire squad but games have continued. There has been some rescheduling but the 11th edition of the BBL is on track to be completed.
Now, the Indian Premier League (IPL) is only a little more than a couple of months away (it is likely to start in the final week of March or the first week of April) the BCCI can take a few lessons from the way COVID is impacting.
Multiple venues and constant travel may not be a feasible option
The BBL has been played in as many as 14 venues in this 2021-22 season so far. The teams have constantly travelled from one state to the other and there are different COVID-19 rules in each state in Australia. After the constant spread of the virus, the BBL was moved into a Melbourne hub and now, most games are being played in the two stadiums in Melbourne.
That may not be the case in India or any other place where the 15th edition of the IPL is staged. However, constant travel has an impact and the chance of COVID transmitting is much higher. In fact, the IPL itself experienced the same last season when the bubbles moved, COVID started to spread in various teams which eventually caused the postponement of the league midway through the season.
The BCCI is currently weighing up if the and they could be better off hosting the IPL in limited venues which would not require a lot of travel as they did in the entire 2020 season and second half of the 2021 edition. Like the murmurs going around, it may just be better to stage the IPL 2022 in Mumbai as it has multiple grounds and with Pune not too far away, it can easily host the 74-game IPL season. Or like the last couple of years, UAE could once again emerge as the backup venue.
Another advantage of having all teams in a confined and limited number of venues will be flexible scheduling. If there are multiple COVID-19 cases in a team and the mandate requires them to self-isolate, then there could be some other team that could fill in for the team affected. A similar thing happened in the BBL and Perth Scorchers came in as the replacement team for Brisbane Heat.
Hence, the IPL could keep its options open and try to make the schedule a little more flexible and it can ask the teams (say suppose the ones playing the very next day) to be prepared to play in case of any extreme consequences. That will allow the IPL to go ahead as planned and may not cause too much delay in the scheduling.
Crucial to have COVID-19 reserves
While the IPL squads are big enough to have enough replacements for injury and unavailability of players but reserve players have become a critical part of any tour or series in this day and age. Like the , the IPL could have a common pool of players from which the teams can pick in case of emergencies. That will allow the teams to have some flexibility and it may not make them lose sleep over a player’s unavailability, especially if he has contracted the COVID-19 virus. This COVID-19 reserve players list could have both Indians and overseas players and they can ideally play for more than one team in that particular season.
Introduction of loan players
If a team is struggling to cope up with COVID-19 and positive cases in their camp, other teams could be of some help. They could lend a few players on loan and a deal could be broken through in order to helping the affected team complete their squad and playing XI. Thus, the IPL could introduce a rule where teams could lend other teams a few players on loan and may keep some cap on it as well as they have for mid-season transfers.
There could be various players who remain on stand-by but the IPL could also do with some backup venues where the tournament can be shifted immediately. This is not just in the country they are currently playing but also in an overseas location. There could be a few logistical constraints but the IPL could consider having backup venues which might help in restarting the tournament as soon as possible in case it is adversely affected by COVID-19.