As rain gods claimed the first ODI of the series between India and South Africa, concerns over conducting sports at large continues to loom in the present climate. The remaining matches of the series are to be played amidst empty stands, as directed by the Sports Ministry in light of the coronavirus outbreak. In light of the growing cases of the Covid-19 in India, BCCI today announced the suspension of IPL till April 15th. The Indian Premier League, one of the biggest sporting events in the world, was to be conducted beginning March 29th this year before the announcement came through.

The IPL now joins a host of high-profile sporting events including the UEFA Champions League, the NBA and the ATP Tour to be affected by COVID-19 (novel coronavirus), a respiratory illness that was declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO) this week.

In its official statement, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) said, “The BCCI is concerned and sensitive about all its stakeholders, and public health in general, and it is taking all necessary steps to ensure that, all people related to IPL including fans have a safe cricketing experience.” “The BCCI will work closely with the Government of India along with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and all other relevant Central and State Government departments in this regard,” the release added. The IPL stated that it will be in communication with the 8 franchises participating in the tournament. A meeting of the IPL’s governing council is scheduled for Saturday.

The Covid-19 epidemic is leading to a serious healthcare crisis in many parts of the globe, though Indian authorities as of now seem to have the flu, originated from Wuhan in China under control. With cases increasing each day, concern from authorities and the general public is also rising. Thus, it remains to be seen how this will fair for sporting events in the country.

As of now, the plan is to hold games in empty stadiums, with audiences being able to watch from their homes; a welcome change for many who are practising social distancing by working from homes and avoiding public gatherings. One issue that may become dicey in the coming weeks is the participation of overseas players in the IPL. “The postponement will allow the BCCI to reassess that situation too. If the tournament can be held from mid-April onwards, then there is time now to work on the visas. Remember, the IPL cannot be held without overseas players. That’s a condition every franchise will put on paper regardless of anything else,” anonymous sources have told the media.

This also brings another question to the table: Is it fair to the players to conduct sports without an audience in the arena, if such games are safe to hold? Will performances of sportsmen who rely on crowd support to charge up not be affected when the crowd and their chants are missing? If IPL gets the go-ahead if conditions improve, we may get to see the answers to such questions. Presently, cricketers, authorities and the audiences have the threat of Coronavirus to deal with among other problems.