Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar believes the BCCI has taken the right decision to suspend the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. (More Cricket News)
"The decision by the BCCI to suspend the IPL till April 15 is a laudable one. The health and safety of a nation are more important than sport and it's wonderful that the usually much-maligned BCCI has put that before anything else," Gavaskar wrote in a column for Sportstar.
The BCCI, on March 11, earlier put the IPL on hold till April 15 even though the tournament was set to start from March 29 after the government issued a travel advisory which made it clear that foreign players wouldn't be issued visas to come into the country.
Gavaskar also said that the fate of the IPL depends upon how quickly the spread of coronavirus is controlled in the country.
"Whether the IPL will be played at all depends on how quickly the spread of COVID-19 is controlled. Till April 15 overseas players won't get a visa so it may take a bit longer for the tournament to take off. Foreign players bring a different flavour to the tournament and add to the excitement, so it's important to have them," he said.
The former Indian skipper also lashed out at a BCCI official for the suggestion that they did not want IPL to be like a Mushtaq Ali tournament without the participation of foreign players.
"Having said that, for a so-called top BCCI official to comment that "the BCCI has to ensure the quality of the game is not poor. We did not want a Mushtaq Ali tournament," is an incredibly insensitive statement if indeed it is true," wrote Gavaskar.
"Firstly, it's insulting to the great man after whom the tournament is named and secondly begs the question that if it's such a "poor" tournament, then why have it at all? Also, can light be shed on why the quality of the tournament is poor? Surely it's not simply because there are no international players in it, but also because there are no Indian internationals in it! That is a scheduling issue that the BCCI has to look at," he added.
On Thursday, the Sports Ministry made it clear that the fate of IPL 2020 can be decided only after the government comes out with a fresh advisory after April 15, keeping in mind the situation with regards to the coronavirus outbreak.
Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju reiterated that while it is the BCCI which decides on cricketing matters, the pandemic is something which has a direct effect on the loves of the citizens of the country.
"After April 15 the government will come up with new advisory and guidelines according to the situation. BCCI is a body that looks after cricket which is not an Olympic sport. But here it is not the question of the sporting event alone but a question of the safety of the citizens. In an event there will be thousands of spectators. So it is not just for the sports bodies or sportspersons it is for every citizen of the country," he said.
The Sports Ministry on March 12 made it clear that all sporting events should be cancelled in the wake of the coronavirus, which has so far claimed four lives in the country. And if it is unavoidable, the events should be held behind closed doors so as to avoid mass gatherings.
The Delhi government went a step further and said that there would be no IPL matches in the national capital till March 31.
BCCI President Sourav Ganguly also informed the media after the meeting with IPL franchise owners last Saturday at the BCCI HQ in Mumbai that all calls would be taken keeping in mind the advisory from the government.