After 4 weeks, 29 matches, Covid cloud over IPL: 4 positive, several in isolation

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AFTER HOLDING 29 matches across four weeks in the middle of a Covid surge that has caused havoc across the country, the IPL’s bio-bubble was breached with two Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) players and two non-playing members of the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) contingent testing positive.

The development led to Monday night’s game between KKR and Royal Challengers Bangalore in Ahmedabad being postponed and a cloud of uncertainty over the ongoing T20 league that ends on May 30.

With KKR spinner Varun Chakravarthy and medium pacer Sandeep Warrier testing positive, cricketers from four other teams that played against the Kolkata side over the last 14 days have been asked to self-isolate by their franchises.

CSK is based in Delhi and scheduled to play Rajasthan Royals on Wednesday.

On Monday, an IPL media advisory informed that Chakravarthy and Warrier have tested positive “in the third round of testing”. It also confirmed the rescheduling of the KKR versus RCB game.

The BCCI, as of now, will go ahead with the tournament and a top official said it won’t be postponed or shifted to the UAE, where it was held last year during the pandemic. “More double-headers are an option,” the official said.

Only last week, BCCI’s interim CEO Hemang Amin had assured all the teams that they were “totally safe” in the IPL bio-bubble. According to a source, Chakravarthy left the bio-bubble through the official channel to have a scan on his shoulder, with permission from the BCCI and his franchise.

“We will look into how players inside the bubble contracted the virus. Varun Chakravarthy might have got himself exposed during the scan, but we don’t want to pinpoint without verifying the details. We will take necessary steps to address the situation,” said the BCCI official.

Over the past 14 days, KKR has played against Delhi Capitals, Rajasthan Royals, Punjab Kings and CSK. As per the IPL’s Covid-19 guidelines, “close contact” of an affected person should “isolate for six days” and return “3 negative tests on Day 1, 3 and 6”. This puts a question mark over KKR’s matches, and will involve at least four other franchises as well.

As for CSK, a BCCI official said the two members of the contingent, both non-playing staff who stayed in the bubble, will “undergo another round of testing”, while further tests would be done on every individual, including players.

As part of Covid safety measures, the IPL group league fixtures are being played in phases this year. Mumbai and Chennai hosted the first phase followed by Ahmedabad and Delhi, and then Kolkata and Bangalore. The playoffs and the final would be played in Ahmedabad.

For the organisers, a tweak at this stage is difficult with the final scheduled on May 30 and little room for an extension. The ICC World Test Championship final between India and New Zealand is scheduled to be played at Southampton from June 18-22, and the Indian team ideally needs a clear 15-day gap after the IPL.

Sources said cricketers from the teams that have played against KKR will be tested daily and arrangements have been made with a hospital to ensure that reports are obtained the same day.

Earlier, the IPL media advisory had stated: “Varun Chakravarthy and Sandeep Warrier were found to be positive in the third round of testing in the last four days. All other team members have tested negative for COVID -19.”

It also said that KKR have now moved towards daily testing “to identify any other possible cases and treat them at the earliest”.

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