IPL under fire for plan to keep playing despite Covid-19 crisis

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NEW DELHI: The Indian Premier League (IPL) will carry on with games, its organisers said on Sunday, but came under heavy criticism for the plan as the country grapples with a massive surge in coronavirus cases.

The New Indian Express and a sister publication said on Sunday they had decided to suspend its IPL coverage, while hundreds of fans lambasted the league on social media.

An IPL governing council member said the league has “a robust bio-bubble” and is being played without fans which made it safe to continue.

“IPL provides a much-needed distraction for all from the doom and gloom around us,” the official said, requesting anonymity.

“Yes, cases have surged in venues like Delhi, but we have two standby venues in Hyderabad and Indore and we’d use them if needed.”

India’s number of Covid-19 cases surged by 349,691 on Sunday, a new global record, and hospitals in Delhi and across the country are turning away patients after running out of medical oxygen and beds.

The Chennai-based New Indian Express said its decision to suspend coverage, calling the glitzy cricket tournament “commercialism gone crass” and “incongruous”.

Express Publications said in a front-page editorial of its flagship English-language daily that the paper was halting reporting on the Twenty20 event until a “semblance of normalcy is restored”.

The Morning Standard and the Sunday Standard — two other English-language newspapers in their stable — shared the same editorial.

“In such a tragic time, we find it incongruous that the festival of cricket is on in India,” the newspaper group said. “This is commercialism gone crass.”

The media company said it was not against the competition but its timing, adding: “Cricket, too, must accept that we are passing through an unprecedented crisis.”

Australia’s Adam Gil­christ, who led now-defunct Deccan Chargers to their maiden IPL victory in 2009, also waded into the debate.

“Best wishes to all in India. Frightening Covid num­bers. #IPL continues. Inappro­priate? Or important distraction each night? Whatever your thoughts, prayers are with you,” tweeted the former Test player.