Bengaluru, September 18: The Indian Premier League and crisis are no strangers. Once the entire tournament had to be shifted out of India and once a part of it. A spot-fixing scandal and a sealed envelope questioned its very existence. Then two teams were terminated by the BCCI on the ground of financial mishandling.
The IPL 2020 is travelling on the same route. Confusion reigned before the powers that be arrived at the decision to stage this IPL in the UAE and there were positive Covid 19 cases within two teams. Yet, we are bracing up for a Saturday (September 19) start.
It is quite remarkable too. Worldwide, sporting events have been either cancelled or postponed to 2021 owing to the Covid 19 pandemic. But the BCCI pursued an opportunity to conduct the IPL 2020 like a persistent sniffer dog, never backed off the trail. They had to face several questions - some moral, some logical.
Is it good to conduct IPL when the whole country is getting ravaged by Coronavirus? Will people even care for IPL during these grim days? Is there a logic behind shifting the IPL to UAE and then stage it behind the closed doors? Why there is a lack of similar urgency and perseverance in charting the domestic tournaments or the women's series?
The primary reason we were told that the BCCI would lose Rs 4000 crore if the IPL 2020 does not take place.
It is serious money but the mathematics apart, the IPL 2020 is certainly a child of necessity and hope more than ever. The easier and safer option was to postpone the event, and that could have earned the BCCI a lot of pats too. After all, caring is the word of the hour.
But they took the tougher road to tread, accepted the risk of conducting a tournament of such magnitude in the time of Covid 19. It is quite natural then that if anything goes awry during the tournament, then the BCCI will have to stare at a howitzer's barrel.
So, why did they go down this danger-laden path? Avarice? Quiet not so. Who does not need money in the real world? The IPL has established itself as the major money spinner for BCCI, cricketers and for the entire eco-system surrounding the sport and stalling it was the extreme choice. It needed to be run, somehow.
It is not like the cricketers have been flocked into a red zone. The authorities and the franchises have taken all possible security steps in the UAE including creating a bio-secure bubble zone for players and all others associated with the league. The hope remains that the tournament will meet its destined end point on November 10, and prudence prevail among everyone in following the standard operating procedures that are set in place.
Hope will touch a whole different level when the action commences with a match between Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings. It will centre around MS Dhoni, who announced his retirement from international cricket on August 15 through a dramatic Instagram message.
Dhoni's last outing to a cricket field for a competitive match was in 2019, the semifinal exit after a defeat to New Zealand in the ICC 50-over World Cup in England. The extended sabbatical since then lasted until it transpired into his retirement. Except Sachin Tendulkar, not many stars have managed to tower over a multi-star tournament like the IPL and Dhoni has a larger shadow this time.
Now, fans will eagerly seek some answers. Can he still hammer a bowler? Does that brain still tick with the same sharpness? Can he still be lightning quick behind the stumps? All constituted to the making of Dhoni the legend.
We will have other usual mix too. Closely fought matches. A fresh name grabbing headlines in a career-changing performance. Some of them might bid farewell too to the IPL world. The only missing part will be crowd inside the stadiums and Virat Kohli had said lack of spectators would not result in drop of intensity and passion.
By no means, the IPL 2020 is a dose of Valium in the pandemic age but it can provide a definite lift in the mood. The tournament won't make us forget the anguish but will give a belief that it can be hurdled over.