The BCCI and the IPL franchise owners have decided to adopt a wait-and-watch approach over when and how to hold the IPL. They want to give health and safety of the players and people involved in holding the IPL priority and are likely to discuss its schedule again after two-three weeks, depending on how the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) situation unfolds in India, where, as of Friday, two lives have been lost because of it.
The BCCI top brass met top executives of all eight franchises at its headquarters in Mumbai on Saturday, including Kolkata Knight Riders co-owner Shah Rukh Khan, Mumbai Indians owner Akash Ambani, Kings XI Punjab co-owner Ness Wadia, among others, after the board had deferred the start of the tournament until April 15.
1/2 Wonderful to meet all the Franchise owners 'off the field' so to say. The meeting by @Bcci and @ipl was to reiterate what all of us feel...safety first of the spectators, players management & cities we play in. All directives of the health agencies & govt to be followed..— Shah Rukh Khan (@iamsrk) March 14, 2020
BCCI president Sourav Ganguly said that now that two weeks of the schedule was lost, there was no option but to hold a "truncated" IPL, and the board would "assess and monitor" the situation in the country on a weekly basis. Whether the IPL will be truncated in terms of days or matches remains to be seen.
"If it is [postponed till] April 15, then it in any case 15 days are gone, so it has to be truncated one," Ganguly said. "How truncated, how many games I can't say at the moment."
Wadia said that the BCCI, the franchise owners and host broadcaster Star Sports had decided to prioritise people's health and that they were not concerned by any monetary downsides. Wadia even said he was prepared for the possibility of the IPL not happening at all if the situation did not improve. ESPNcricinfo understands that a few other scheduling options, including a truncated IPL, came up for discussion during the meeting but it was too "premature" to take the discussions forward right now.
"The meeting was to discuss the possible scenarios. Number one, most importantly, everyone in India and the world must understand, the BCCI, nor the IPL nor Star is here to gain monetary benefit by having the IPL," Wadia told reporters after the meeting. "All the stakeholders, especially the BCCI and owners and Star, feel that it is incorrect to think about even one rupee. So we are not interested in money, we are not interested in having any gain from this situation and trying to hold the IPL without a clear understanding of the situation. Having said that, number one is the health and safety of everyone is looked after.
"Number two, we will follow whatever the government direction is.
"From a third perspective, no one is in a position to say when it's going to start. We will review the situation after two-three weeks and hopefully by then the [coronavirus] cases will reduce. We should be clear that the most important thing is health and safety, not [financial] gain at the moment. We are not here to earn money, we are here to serve and protect the people."
Public sentiment needs to be considered too - Shah Rukh Khan
ESPNcricinfo understands all eight franchises had held a teleconference on Friday to discuss issues that needed the IPL to address at Saturday's meetings. The main points of discussion were: would the owners want to go ahead with the tournament, should it be played behind closed doors?
It was agreed that they did not have much of an option other than following the BCCI and government directive.
Among the owners present during that conference was Shah Rukh Khan, who stressed that the public's feelings must assume top priority. "Whatever you do, the common man should not get a feeling that we are pushing for the IPL. It is their sentiment that needs to be considered, too, before any call is taken," a franchise executive, who was present on the call, said of the point Shah Rukh had made.
A day later, Shah Rukh reiterated that stance to the BCCI. "What has to be borne in mind is firstly how does the aam janata (common man) see it? What is their feelings? That has to be looked at along with the other aspects," is what Shah Rukh is supposed to have said, according to a franchise's CEO who was present at Saturday's meeting.
Before deciding to defer IPL 2020 as well as rescheduling the India-South Africa ODI series the BCCI's top brass, led by its president Ganguly and secretary Jay Shah, met with Uday Shankar, head of Star India, the host broadcaster, in Mumbai on Friday. In 2017 Star had paid a record sum of USD 2.55 billion to get the global broadcast rights for the IPL until 2022.
One of the points for discussion was stretching the tournament past May 24 - according to the original schedule, the final was slated to be held on this date. Keeping in mind the onset of monsoon in the first week of June, the latest cut-off date was set as June 5. At Saturday's meeting, the franchises were told that tournament could be played until first week of June if need be.
The other options, as reported by ESPNcricinfo on Friday, included the possibility of more double-headers. One other option discussed on Saturday was in the case there would be a government clearance to go ahead with IPL in April, it could be played at limited venues to curtail travel, something many countries are banning people from doing amid the growing outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
The participation of the overseas players was another concern for franchises and the BCCI agreed that in case no players from outside India could feature, then the tournament might not go ahead. However, with the situation in flux, all stakeholders agreed that it would be prudent to not rush into any decision and instead wait for the BCCI to update the franchises periodically.
When asked if any back-up options of rescheduling the tournament were discussed in the meeting that lasted around 90 minutes, Wadia said: "That's hypothesising. This is not a situation to hypothesise. This is a serious pandemic. Thousands of people have died across the world, luckily only two in India.
"As far as your next question is, 'will the foreign players come or not?', I don't know. There is a [visa] ban till April 15th and then we'll see. So if IPL happens, great; if it doesn't, so be it."
Parth Jindal, co-owner of Delhi Capitals, said the BCCI will "probably" call for another meeting with the owners in the coming weeks after "watching" the situation as the board keeps in touch with the Indian government. The central government placed several travel restrictions for people going in and out of India, cancelling all visas until April 15. The government had also said sporting organisations would need to adhere to the health ministry's guidelines to avoid mass gatherings which had prompted the BCCI to think about holding IPL matches in front of empty stands.
"We are committed to IPL, we would like IPL to happen but we have to wait and watch based on the virus and how it progresses.," Jindal said.
The coronavirus has struck over 100 countries globally, leading to over 5000 deaths and forcing cancellation and rescheduling of all international and domestic cricket. Soon after the IPL was deferred on Friday, the BCCI and Cricket South Africa announced the rescheduling of the remaining two India-South Africa ODIs that were to be played on March 15 (Lucknow) and 18 (Kolkata). The first Australia-New Zealand ODI happened in front of empty stands at the SCG on Friday and the remaining two ODIs as well as the subsequent three-match T20I series were also cancelled on Saturday after the New Zealand government imposed travel restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Vishal Dikshit is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo