The Everest Premier League (EPL), Nepal's foremost franchise T20 tournament, has been postponed following a government directive to refrain from mass gatherings amid fears about the transmission of COVID-19 (coronavirus).
The tournament, initially scheduled to start on March 14, was set to feature Chris Gayle, Sandeep Lamichhane and Mohammad Shahzad. The tournament's organisers said in a statement that it would be rescheduled for "the closest possible time whenever the situation is favourable".
The has only been one confirmed case of coronavirus in Nepal to date, but given the country's proximity to China, the health ministry requested that the public suspend all major gatherings to reduce the risk of community spread.
Growing concerns about the spread of coronavirus has forced sporting events across the globe to review their position including the Tokyo Olympics. Cricket has not been immune, too. The EPL is the second tournament to fall victim to concerns over the outbreak, following a women's quadrangular T20I series in Thailand that was scheduled to feature Netherlands, Ireland and Zimbabwe.
The EPL postponement comes even as cricket is being played in Nepal's neighbouring countries: India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. On Wednesday, the Sindh provincial government ruled out moving PSL games away from Karachi. The BCCI, too, is yet to issue a directive on the measures it is taking even as the IPL is scheduled to start on March 29.
The EPL organisers, though, have decided it is best to be proactive as cases of people being affected by coronavirus escalates rapidly across the globe. "We are naturally all sad at today's announcement of having to temporarily postpone the 2020 EPL, but we simply have to put the health and wellbeing of all Nepalis and our overseas players before everything else," Aamir Akhtar, the competition's managing director, said.
"It was crucial that we announced this decision now at the earliest possible juncture to ensure the minimum possible disruption to all of our stakeholders, who are integral parts of the ongoing success and growth of the league.
"We would like to thank the government of Nepal for their support and counsel through this challenging period, and we support entirely the professional advice throughout. I would like to assure that as soon as we are able to go ahead with the 2020 season, we will be working to ensure that it will be the spectacular event the likes of which Nepal has never seen before."