The Indian cricket board's decision to host the second phase of the Indian Premier League (IPL) matches in cities with no alternate T20-specific practice facilities may have caused the breach in Covid protocols, it has emerged.
Delhi and Ahmedabad -- cities with rapidly increasing Covid cases -- hosted the second phase and the positive cases among players and staff that led to the postponement of the tournament emerged during matches in those cities. Besides, the two cities struggled for alternate practice facilities for teams.
"There is a belief within many Board of Control for Cricket of India (BCCI) and state officials that the decision to take the second phase to Delhi and Ahmedabad was wrong. There were four teams in each city and except for the main ground, which is an international-level facility and hosted matches, the alternate facilities meant for practice were open to exposure to Covid-19," an official in the know of things told IANS.
While in Delhi, teams like the Chennai Super Kings used the Roshanara Club grounds for practice, those in Ahmedabad were forced to use Gujarat College ground.
Both venues are in congested or old parts of the city. The practice facility at the Motera ground in Ahmedabad has another problem. Since the construction of annexe grounds and full facilities isn't complete, the available facility is not suited to practice big shots needed in T20 cricket.
"The problem with the newly-built Narendra Modi Stadium in Motera is that the adjoining grounds and facilities are still under construction. While it will be a state-of-the-art facility with multiple grounds, it is not yet completed. The teams can't use the current practice nets as it is not suitable for big hitting needed during T20 practice. It is okay for Test matches or first-class cricket practice," said the official.
"So, taking players to Gujarat College ground was fraught with risk as there are so many people like the maalis [gardeners], security guard and others. It was easy to get infected," he pointed out. As many as three teams, including the worst-affected Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), practiced there. Four KKR players tested positive.
Delhi's Roshanara Club, where the BCCI was founded over 90 years ago, is in the middle of a thickly populated area, and one has to make way through crowded streets to reach there.
"The Roshanara Club in Delhi is also a club which is not suited for practice for IPL franchise. Besides, you have local staff that can easily infect the players or staff," said the official.
Delhi has two Palam grounds which are spacious and secure, away from the city as well. There might have been issues with some aspects of the facilities there, although it has hosted international teams' practice in the past. Closer to the IPL teams' hotels is Jamia Milla Islamia ground, which is secure and has excellent dressing rooms, though the pitches could be an issue there.
"Shifting the tournament to Delhi and Ahmedabad opened the tournament to Covid-19 exposure," the official said.
The third IPL phase was to be held in Kolkata and Bengaluru. Even though Bangalore is facing a huge Covid-19 threat, it has some good facilities for practice. Besides the Chinnaswamy Stadium, where the matches were to be hosted, it has multiple grounds in Alur on the city's outskirts.