Sourav Ganguly said on Thursday that the Board of Control for Cricket in India is trying its best to stage the Indian Premier League this year. Indian cricket’s chief is sticking with plans to salvage the cash-rich IPL tournament this year even if it means playing in empty stadiums.

The former Indian captain was quoted by ANI as saying that the board is keeping options for now.

“The BCCI is working on all possible options to ensure that we’re able to stage the IPL this year, even if it means playing in empty stadiums,” said Ganguly.

He added: “Fans, franchisees, players, broadcasters, sponsors and all stakeholders are looking forward to the possibility of IPL being hosted this year. Recently, a lot of players, both from India and other countries, participating in the IPL have also shown their keenness on being a part of the tournament this year. We are optimistic and the BCCI will shortly decide on the future course of action on this.”

The world’s richest Twenty20 tournament is heading for the first wipeout of its 12-year history after being repeatedly postponed because of the coronavirus.

Despite the worsening epidemic caseload in India, Ganguly has not given up hope of a tournament taking place.

According to reports, the BCCI’s planning has been hit by the International Cricket Council on Wednesday deferring a decision on the fate of the T20 World Cup, originally scheduled for Australia in October.

If the T20 showpiece does go ahead, there would be little room for even a shortened IPL.

BCCI treasurer Arun Dhumal told AFP the board would suffer losses of more than half a billion dollars if the IPL season is scrapped. The league is a huge revenue earner for BCCI and estimated to generate more than $11 billion for the Indian economy.

Foreign stars including Australia’s Steve Smith, Pat Cummins and England all-rounder Ben Stokes have been backing an IPL start at some stage. Cummins was to be the most expensive overseas star this year with Kolkata Knight Riders agreeing a $2.17 million fee for him.

On Thursday, Kolkata Knight Riders franchise CEO Venky Mysore wanted the tournament to go ahead without any format changes, saying that not having overseas players is not how he would want IPL 2020 to happen.

(With AFP inputs)