Coronavirus threat looms large over Indian Premier League
A landmark Olympic basketball qualifying tournament in India has become the latest victims of the coronavirus epidemic in sports, raising the doubts over holding of this year’s Indian Premier League (IPL).
The Twenty20 cricket’s richest tournament runs from March 29 to May end throughout India at diferent venues and the possibility of a postponement looms large over the event in wake of coronavirus outbreak.
The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) called off a qualifying tournament to be hosted by India in Bangalore for three-a-side basketball, which is set to make its debut at this year's Tokyo Olympics. The viability of the Games in Japan is in doubt as the country battles to contain the deadly virus.
Teams from more than 20 countries were supposed to take part in the five-day qualifying tournament on March 18 in Bangalore.
"FIBA is now working in close collaboration with the International Olympic Committee on the best solution possible in the circumstances," said the international federation.
The postponement causes problems as the tournament has to take place before the next round of qualifying in Budapest starting April 24.
This postponement will leave much to ponder for Indian sports organisers as the coronavirus has disrupted the sports calendar around the globe. However, currently Pakistan are hosting a successful Pakistan Super League event and many other cricket bilateral series are underway so a postponement of the IPL may be a bitter pill to take and could prove a disaster for the BCCI.
India is currently under radar of many countries and it has been reported that the US spy agencies are watching closely the South Asian country, which is currently experiencing a wave of violent clashes against Muslims by Hindu majority, over its inability to handle the risks of the virus.
On Thursday, an India-EU summit scheduled for March 13 in Brussels has also been postponed because of the coronavirus. India also quarantined two groups of Italian tourists on Wednesday, with 16 testing positive for the new coronavirus, prompting authorities to tighten controls.
India's case total stands officially at just 29 so far-- including the Italians and their Indian driver, but there are fears that the number could rise dramatically..
Even, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said Wednesday that he will stay away from celebrations during one of the country's biggest festivals as coronavirus fears gripped the country of 1.3 billion people.
India has been one of the latest countries to report a surge in cases, sparking a run on masks, while the government said all air passengers entering the country would now be screened for the virus that has killed more than 3,000 around the globe.
Modi said he would stay away from events for Holi, the "festival of colours", which is normally a raucous day when paint and water are splashed in the streets of many cities.
"Experts across the world have advised to reduce mass gatherings to avoid the spread of COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus," Modi said on Twitter. "Hence, this year I have decided not to participate in any Holi Milan programme."
The Hindu festival, which this year falls next Tuesday, marks the beginning of spring.
So under these all circumstances, hosting of the IPL this season looks highly doubtful and if the BCCI goes ahead, it could potentially raise the spread of the virus in the country.