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IPL 2021: SRH’s Natarajan tests Covid positive, six close contacts isolated


The deadly Covid-19 virus has come back to hit IPL 2021 hard with Sunrisers Hyderabad pacer T Natarajan testing positive. Natarajan tested positive in a scheduled RT-PCR test. The 30-year-old has isolated himself from the rest of the SRH squad and is currently asymptomatic.

Six close contacts of Natarajan — his team-mate Vijay Shankar, net bowler Periyasamy Ganesan, Team Manager Vijay Kumar, Physiotherapist Shyam Sundar J, Doctor Anjana Vannan and Logistics Manager Tushar Khedkar — have been kept in isolation as well.

“The rest of the contingent including the close contacts underwent RT-PCR tests at 5AM local time this morning and the test reports are negative. As a result, tonight’s game between Sunrisers Hyderabad and Delhi Capitals will go ahead at the Dubai International Stadium, Dubai,” said a release by the IPL on Wednesday.

Natarajan was set to make a comeback to cricket in the second leg of the IPL 2021. He had sustained a knee injury and had subsequent surgery, which kept him out of action since appearing for the franchise in two matches of the first half of IPL 2021 in April.

Earlier on May 4, IPL 2021 was postponed in India after Wriddhiman Saha of SRH, DC’s Amit Mishra, KKR bowlers Sandeep Warrier and Varun Chakravarthy, CSK’s bowling and batting coaches, Lakshmipathy Balaji and Michael Hussey, tested positive for Covid-19 at the height of second wave in India.

The tournament resumed after a break of almost four months in the UAE with strict bio-bubble measures on September 19 with Chennai Super Kings beating defending champions Mumbai Indians by 20 runs in Dubai.

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IPL bio-bubble bursts, several Covid+ results force postponement


The Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021 was on Tuesday postponed indefinitely after at least four of the eight franchises reported positive Covid-19 cases of players/officials and “weren’t that keen on continuing”, leaving the Indian cricket board with no option but to stop it amid rapidly escalating pandemic in the country.

At least half of the eight franchises — Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), SunRisers Hyderabad (SRH), Chennai Super Kings (CSK), and Delhi Capitals (DC) – had confirmed that players/officials have tested positive by Tuesday night.

A red-faced Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), which has been staunchly defending the IPL’s continuation as the country reeled under the Covid-19 massive onslaught, was left with no option but to postponed it when the teams got impacted.

The postponement of the IPL at the halfway stage – 29 of the 60 matches were played — may have a big impact on the T20 World Cup, scheduled to be played in India in October-November. The United Arab Emirates is the alternate venue for the T20 World Cup.

The BCCI is now facing the pressure of looking for a window after a few of the franchises on Tuesday expressed their unwillingness to continue playing the tournament.

The BCCI had to call off the IPL on Tuesday after it emerged SRH’s Wriddhiman Saha in Delhi and DC’s Amit Mishra in Ahmedabad tested positive. Michael Hussey, a member of the CSK coaching staff, also reportedly tested positive twice on Tuesday in Delhi.

On Monday, CSK bowling coach Laxmipathy Balaji and a member of the “travel support staff” and KKR bowlers Varun Chakravarthy and Sandeep Warrier had tested positive along with a few members of the ground staff at the Arun Jaitley Stadium in Delhi.

That forced three teams — KKR, CSK and DC — to go into isolation. However, more positive cases on Tuesday and SRH also getting affected made it impossible for the league to continue.

“The IPL Governing Council and BCCI in an emergency meeting has unanimously decided to postpone IPL 2021 season, with immediate effect,” said a BCCI statement on Tuesday.

BCCI vice-president Rajeev Shukla said that some franchises were not keen on playing after the deadly virus penetrated the supposedly secure IPL bio-bubble.

“Some of the franchises weren’t that keen on continuing and left the decision to us,” Shukla told IANS on Tuesday.

While the IPL teams unaffected by the Covid-19 have already started leaving or, in some cases, are prepared to leave the bio-bubble in a day or two, the affected teams have to be cautious.

RCB, Rajasthan Royals (RR), Punjab Kings, and Mumbai Indians (MI) are the teams that haven’t been affected by Covid-19.

Shukla though said that the BCCI has given the green signal to all the unaffected players to leave. “Those players who have not tested positive can leave. There is no bar on them even if they come from unaffected teams,” he said.

A massive question, however, rests on the status of foreign players, especially the Australians. While the New Zealand players will most likely fly to England and South African players return to their country and undergo quarantine at home, the Aussies are in a soup.

The Australian government has banned flights from India to the country till May 15. It means that the Aussie players will either have to go to a third country, like Maldives, where Aussie commentator Michael Slater as chosen to go, or England and serve quarantine before they proceed to their home country.

The IPL won’t be able to resume anytime soon, as a window for it is likely to be an issue.

There is speculation over the September window, between India’s Tests in England and the T20 World Cup in October-November, being available. However, Shukla said it is too early to decide on the dates and venue of the remainder of the IPL.

Another option is holding it immediately after the T20 World Cup. All that would, however, depend on the Covid-19 situation not only in India but also in countries whose players are part of the IPL franchises.

The BCCI in its Tuesday’s statement said that it would help players leave India through a secure passage. “The BCCI will do everything in its powers to arrange for the secure and safe passage of all the participants in IPL,” it said.

“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 wellbeing of all the stakeholders in mind.”

The BCCI finally admitted that these are indeed “difficult times”.

“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,” it said in the statement.

With the cancellation of IPL, the action now shifts to international cricket. England and New Zealand play a Test series from June 2-14. The early end of IPL will mean that England’s IPL players like Jos Buttler, Sam Curran and Chris Woakes will be available for that series. And so would be New Zealand’s Trent Boult, Kane Williamson and Mitchell Santner.

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Ashwin takes break from IPL after family hit by Covid


India off-spinner R Ashwin, who is representing Delhi Capitals (DC), has taken a break from the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) since he wants to be with his family during the Covid-19 pandemic.

It appears that certain member(s) of his family have contracted Covid-19.

“I would be taking a break from this year’s IPL from tomorrow. My family and extended family are putting up a fight against #COVID19 and I want to support them during these tough times,” he tweeted after his franchise defeated SunRisers Hyderabad in the Super Over at the MA Chidambaram Stadium on Sunday night.

He, however, said that he hopes to return if things go in the right direction.

“I expect to return to play if things go in the right direction. Thank you @DelhiCapitals,” he added in the tweet.

The 34-year-old has played five matches and picked one wicket this season at an average of 147. He has an economy rate of 7.73.

During the last IPL, he had picked 13 wickets in 15 matches.

Ashwin was the player of the series during the recent Test series against England.

According to the rules during the ongoing pandemic, if a player leaves bio-bubble once then he has to undergo quarantine if he wishes to join again. It means that if Ashwin wants to rejoin Delhi Capitals, he will have to undergo quarantine again.

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SRH batting collapses again as MI win by 13 runs


Ordinary performance by SunRisers Hyderabad (SRH) middle-order batsmen consigned them to their third successive loss in this year’s Indian Premier League (IPL) as Mumbai Indians (MI) put up a spirited effort in the field to defend 150/5, winning the match by 13 runs.

This was the third successive time SRH lost a match after looking like they would race to the target after having got a good start.

SRH had earlier messed up the chase against Kolkata Knight Riders in the opening encounter and then lost their next match to Royal Challengers Bangalore.

On Saturday, after a 67-run opening wicket partnership between Jonny Bairstow (43 off 22 balls) and David Warner (36 off 24 balls), they lost track.

While both Bairstow and Warner were unlucky with the former getting out hit wicket and the latter being run out by a direct hit from Hardik Pandya, the batsmen who came in after them threw their wickets away to leg-spinner Rahul Chahar (3/19 in four overs).

SRH’s No. 3 batsman Manish Pandey fell for two as he was caught trying to attempt a big shot against Chahar.
Soon after that, Virat Singh and Abhishek Sharma, who were drafted in to the playing XI for the first time this season, holed out to fielders in the deep while trying to attempt big shots when there was no need to play risky shots.

Soon SRH were five down for 104 in 14.5 overs. While all-rounder Vijay Shankar (28 off 25 balls), who had earlier impressed with the ball, tried to keep them in the game with Abdul Samad, another brilliant run-out from Hardik sent back.

Shankar tried hard but MI’s Jasprit Bumrah and Trent Boult were just too good to get away in the final overs. Shankar fell to Bumrah.

Earlier, SRH had restricted MI’s strong batting line-up to 150 for five in 20 overs.

Opting to bat after winning the toss, MI began well with both Rohit Sharma (32 off 25 balls) and Quinton de Kock (40 off 39 balls) adding 55 for the first wicket in 6.3 overs.

However, Shankar chipped in with two wickets to stall the MI batting which could never recover from there.
Shankar picked the wickets of Sharma and No. 3 Suryakumar Yadav (10 off 6 balls).

Off-spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman then took two wickets, removing de Kock and the dangerous Ishan Kishan, who was caught brilliantly by Jonny Bairstow, to leave MI struggling at 114/4 in the 17th over.

The middle overs had proved to be difficult for MI as they struggled against the SRH bowling.

A few lusty blows from Kieron Pollard (35 off 22 balls), including taking 17 off the last over bowled by Bhuvneshwar Kumar helped MI to get to a competitive 150 which proved to be enough.

Brief scores: Mumbai Indians 150/5 in 20 overs (Q de Kock 40, R Sharma 32, V Shankar 2/19, M Rahman 2/29) vs SunRisers Hyderabad 137 all out in 19.4 overs (J Bairstow 43, D Warner 36, V Shankar 28, R Chahar 3/19, T Boult 3/28)

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IPL to start on April 9, call on fans to be taken later


The 2021 Indian Premier League (IPL) will start on April 9 and its final will be held on May 30, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) said on Sunday. Mumbai Indians face Royal Challengers Bangalore in the first match of the season which will be played in Chennai.

The matches will be played in Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, the BCCI said on Sunday. The final will be played at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad. All matches will be played behind closed doors, with the BCCI saying that a call on allowing spectators will be taken at a later stage of the tournament.

Each team is set to play at four venues during the league stage. Out of the 56 league matches, Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bengaluru will host 10 matches each while Ahmedabad and Delhi will host 8 matches each. The board said that matches have been designed in such a way that each team will travel only three times during the league stage.

“One of the highlights of this edition of the VIVO IPL will be the fact that all matches will be played at neutral venues, no team will play at their home venue. All teams will play at four out of six venues during the league stage,” said the BCCI in its statement.

There will be a total of 11 doubleheaders where six teams will play three-afternoon matches and two teams will play two-afternoon matches. The afternoon games are slated for a 3.30 p.m. IST start while the evening games will have a 7.30 p.m. start.

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