In a statement on Tuesday, tournament organizers said that “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.”
It is unclear when and where the cricket tournament, which attracts the world’s best cricketers on big-money contracts, will resume.
The number of coronavirus cases in India has now crossed 20 million, as the country reported 357,229 cases on Tuesday, according to figures released by the health ministry.
Prior to Tuesday, organizers had pushed ahead with the tournament, despite the withdrawal of several high-profile players and calls for a postponement.
The IPL had been operating under strict bubbles as teams moved between games across the country; for Sunrisers Hyderabad players, that even meant wearing head-to-toe PPE for an internal flight to Delhi.
But with cases surging across the country and with hospitals running out of oxygen and essentials medicines, the game’s administrators were being pressured to do more.
Organizers met with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for an emergency meeting this week and unanimously decided to suspend the tournament.
“The BCCI does not want to compromise on the safety of the players, support staff and the other participants involved in organising the IPL. This decision was taken keeping the safety, health and well-being of all the stakeholders in mind,” read the statement.
‘I’ve seen a lot of lives being lost’
According to Forbes, the IPL is the sixth most valuable sports league in the world, behind the NFL, the Champions League and the four biggest domestic soccer competitions in Europe.
Suspending or canceling the tournament, some argued, would come at an economic and social cost.
“There’s a whole ecosystem that the IPL sustains … providing livelihoods to a couple of million Indians, if not more,” Indian cricket journalist Boria Majumdar told CNN Sport, before the suspension was announced.
“We are talking about a huge economic system here. By stopping the IPL what do you do? You plummet the nation into more gloom, talk about more debts and more pandemic.”
India’s Broadcast Audience Research Council found viewership during the opening week of last season’s IPL increased by 15%, with 269 million viewers tuning in for seven matches across 21 channels.
Nonetheless some fans had been left uncomfortable that the tournament had continued before news of the suspension came on Tuesday.
“It doesn’t make me feel good. I’ve seen a lot of lives being lost,” Oswald Dsouza, 55, a passionate cricket fan from Bangalore, told CNN Sport last week.
“On one side, you have people losing their precious lives and on the other you’re talking about entertainment and commercial cricket.
“Yes, I also love the IPL but lives do matter at the end of the day. What’s the point with going on with IPL when we have so many lives lost.”
With the postponement now confirmed, many foreign players currently in India for the tournament might look to fly back home.
However, they could face weeks of quarantine with countries around the world restricting travel to and from India while cases remain so high.
In Australia, anyone who has been in India 14-days prior to Monday is now blocked from entering the country, including Australian citizens, under the country’s Biosecurity Act.
Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison denied that the ban on arrivals is racist and played down the chance of jail time for those caught breaking the rules.
On Monday, around 9,000 Australians in India were registered with the government as wanting to return to Australia.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) told CNN Sport that it was in close contact with its players and staff in India as arrangements were made for their return.
“The ECB understands the BCCI’s decision to postpone the competition for the safety and wellbeing of those involved, and thanks the BCCI for its commitment to do everything in its powers to arrange for the secure and safe passage of all those taking part in the competition,” read an ECB statement.
“Our thoughts remain with the people of India during these challenging times.”