India's top cricket league suspends play as COVID-19 crisis engulfs nation

Jason Owens
·2 min read

The Indian Premier League has suspended play amid a devastating COVID-19 wave that's crippled the world's second most populous nation. 

The Board of Control for Cricket in India announced an indefinite suspension of the world's foremost cricket competition in a statement on Tuesday.

"This decision was taken keeping the safety, health and well-being of all the stakeholders in mind," the statement reads. "These are difficult times, especially in India and while we have tried to bring in some positivity and cheer, however, it is imperative that the tournament is now suspended and everyone goes back to their families and loved ones in these trying times.”

Cricket is India's most popular sport. The season that normally runs from March through May has hosted 29 games without fans in 2021. An outbreak of COVID-19 cases among teams in addition to the larger crisis engulfing the nation prompted Tuesday's decision. 

Kieron Pollard of the Mumbai Indians bats during the Indian Premier League Final match between the the Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings at Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium on May 12, 2019 in Hyderabad, India. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
The IPL suspended play amid mounting pressure as India surpassed 20 million confirmed COVID-19 cases.(Robert Cianflone/Getty Images/file)

Case count, death toll surges

Players and staff members from three different IPL teams tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday. On the same day, India surpassed 20 million total confirmed COVID-19 cases, trailing only the 32.5 million-plus cases confirmed in the United-States. Seven million of those cases have occurred in the last month. As of late April, India accounted for almost half of the new daily COVID-19 cases globally.

The COVID-19 death toll in India has surpassed 222,000, the third-highest global total behind the United States and Brazil. An estimated 120 people in India have died of COVID-19 every hour in the last two weeks. 

These are all official numbers. Experts believe that the true death toll in India is significantly higher. The crisis has led to hospitals filled to capacity, a shortage on stored oxygen and residents afraid to step outside of their homes. 

IPL resisted earlier calls to suspend play

Until Tuesday, the IPL carried on with play as high-profile players withdrew from the league and urged officials to suspend play. The IPL is a lucrative endeavor that Forbes ranks as the world's sixth-most valuable sports league behind the NFL and Europe's top four soccer competitions. It has a broadcast rights deal worth $2.55 billion.

Tuesday's decision to shut down was unanimously made in an emergency meeting of the league's governing council.

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