The Indian Premier League’s 2021 edition is being played in India amid a devastating surge of Covid-19 cases. The tournament’s league stage is being held in two cities at a time, with none of the eight teams playing at their home venues. The caravan style arrangement was made before the tournament to limit the travel, with teams staying in bio-secure bubbles.

After the first set of matches were played in Mumbai and Chennai, the tournament has moved to Ahmedabad and New Delhi. The national capital will host the match on Wednesday between Chennai Super Kings and Sunrisers Hyderabad at the Arun Jaitley Stadium at a time when the city is reeling under the grips of the virus.

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While the tournament’s first few matches went off without any operational glitches reported, three Australian players have already left the tournament mid-way citing personal reasons, given the travel restrictions now in place Down Under for flights from India. The Board of Control for Cricket in India moved to reassure the players of the safety of the bubbles. COO Hemang Ami had written to the players saying the tournament will not be over for BCCI until they ensure every player has returned home safely. In that email, he had also said that the bubbles were being strengthened.

“In order to allay any apprehensions and concerns, we are further strengthening our bio-secure environments to keep everyone involved in the tournament safe and healthy. Recently, we increased testing in our bio-bubbles to be extra vigilant. Instead of the stipulated test every five days, we now conduct a test every two days,” Amin is reported to have written in the email sent to the teams.

“Further, earlier in the tournament, we had permitted food deliveries from outside your designated hotels, but these privileges have also been withdrawn. Apart from this, we have also increased our level of caution to strengthen our bio-bubbles.”

Now, while the argument has been made by the BCCI and IPL that the tournament can serve as a distraction while being safely held, the move to Delhi has raised questions about the resources being used up to ensure the integrity of the bubbles when the city is otherwise reeling.

IPL 2021 matches scheduled in Delhi

Match No. Date Team 1 Team 2 Day Time
23 28-Apr CSK SRH WED 7:30 PM
24 29-Apr MI RR THU 3:30 PM
27 1-May MI CSK SAT 7:30 PM
28 2-May RR SRH SUN 3:30 PM
31 4-May SRH MI TUE 7:30 PM
32 5-May RR CSK WED 7:30 PM
34 7-May SRH CSK FRI 7:30 PM
36 8-May RR MI SAT 7:30 PM

The question of moving the tournament out of Delhi had not been entertained by the organisers, with the players, team officials, groundstaff all operating in a bubble.

“There is a health and safety protocol that is already in place where teams move around in bubbles, they stay in bubbles, practice happens in a bubble, and any and every person who comes in contact is part of the bubble. There is no one who is outside the bubble,” DDCA president Rohan Jaitley told ESPNcricinfo on Friday.

But the reactions to the tournament’s Delhi phase have raised serious questions about the BCCI’s lack of empathy to ground reality.

“The Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium [renamed Arun Jaitley Stadium] is about a kilometre from the Lok Nayak Hospital. The stadium is 3.5 kilometres from the Nigambodh Ghat (crematorium). It’s so inappropriate and so insensitive for these matches to be taking place in Delhi,” senior sports journalist Sharda Ugra told NDTV.

“People can say anything about entertainment and distraction but honestly, a match in Delhi at this point of time is terribly inappropriate and terribly insensitive.”

India on Wednesday registered a record 3,60,960 new coronavirus cases in a day, taking the total number of infections since the pandemic broke out in January 2020 to 1,79,97,267. This is the highest ever single-day rise in cases reported by any country so far. Delhi on Tuesday reported 24,149 new Covid infections and 381 deaths, PTI reported. This is the highest daily toll in the national Capital since the beginning of the pandemic in March

The country’s healthcare infrastructure is reeling under the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic as hundreds of thousands of new coronavirus cases emerge every day. The surge of cases has led to an acute shortage of oxygen, beds and timely medical care across several states in the country. Social media has been filled with SOS calls for ambulances, ICU beds and medicines.

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