With mere days left before the 2021 edition of the Indian Premier League kicks off, the Maharashtra government on Sunday announced a slew of new restrictions. But with Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium being one of the six venues where matches will be held over the next two months, many were left wondering how things would proceed.
For the uninitiated, state administration has taken on the sharply rising COVID-19 case tally with new guidelines, including the imposition of Section 144 and a night curfew. All public spaces (from beaches to theatres and religious sites) will remain closed to visitors, as will all shops, markets and malls, except for essential services. But while the new restrictions will certainly keep a live audience away from IPL matches, officials say that it will not affect the players or the IPL schedule.
"Everything will go on as per schedule," assured BCCI President Sourav Ganguly in conversation with ANI after the announcement. A similar confirmation about cricket matches in the Wankhede Stadium was also given by Mumbai Cricket Association secretary Sanjay Naik.
The first match at the Mumbai stadium is slated to be played on April 10 between Delhi Capitals and Chennai Super Kings. There has been growing concerns about the upcoming IPL season, with reports indicating that ground staff members at Wankhede had recently tested positive, as well as players and several event managers.
News agency ANI quoted a source to explain that since the team and their transportation will be within a bubble, it would not be an issue. "Not just the teams, but also the buses and drivers and everything is inside the bio-secure bubble. So, travelling to the stadium on match-days will not be a problem. Regular tests are being done on those working around the teams as well just like it was last year in the UAE. The curfew won't hurt travel to and from the stadium," the source was quoted as saying.
At the beginning of March, the administrators behind the IPL had said that the 14th year would begin behind closed doors. It is however not completely clear whether the later phases of the tournament will allow a limited number of spectators. Indeed, the IPL website has several articles detailing the ticket booking process for each team, albeit with no links attached at present.
(With inputs from agencies)