IPL 2020 likely to be held without crowds over coronavirus fears
The Indian Premier League could be played behind closed doors because of the novel coronavirus threat amidst calls for the tournament to be cancelled.
The IPL Governing Council will meet on Saturday to decide the fate of the cash-rich T20 competition scheduled to commence on March 29.
The 60-game league, expected to last almost two months, generates a lot of wealth for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) – cricket's powerhouse.
"We are keen to start the IPL on time even if it means without crowds," a senior BCCI official was quoted as saying by AFP.
"It could be TV-only as it is a medical emergency and we can do nothing about that."
The number of infected people in India has risen to 71 in the past four days, prompting government advisories to impose visa restrictions on foreigners that could affect the presence of the 60-plus international stars in the league.
With the growing threat of coronavirus negatively impacting sporting events, the BCCI still wants to start the league on time but the officials said it will have to obey government orders.
The virus scare could see the remaining two ODIs between South Africa and India being limited to a 'TV-only' affair, like the ongoing Road Safety World Series T20 tournament.
"Of course we want players and fans to be safe and will take every precaution to carry on with the league in a smooth manner," the official said.
The Maharashtra state government has already requested a delay in ticket sales for the curtain-raiser clash between reigning champions Mumbai Indians and three-time winners Chennai Super Kings.
Maharashtra has suggested the central government to order all games played without spectators.
"Human life has far more value than the IPL," said Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope.
According to reports, it has emerged that the Karnataka state government wants the league to be cancelled altogether.
Sports competitions around the globe have been drastically disrupted by COVID-19 with basketball's NBA suspended indefinitely while Spain's La Liga postponed for two weeks.