VOICES MAGAZINE ANIRBAN GANGULY ANAND NEELAKANTAN ANUJA CHANDRAMOULI RAVI SHANKAR SIDDHARTH DASGUPTA MATA AMRITANANDAMAYI BUFFET PEOPLE WELLNESS BOOKS FOOD ART & CULTURE ENTERTAINMENT NEW DELHI SEPTEMBER 13 2020 SUNDAY PAGES 12 The Show Must Go On IPL IN DESERT T he television commentators might increase their decibel levels. Fireworks is set to go off when Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings walk out for the first match of the Indian Premier League (IPL) on September 19. As the sound of pyros dies in staccato, not a thunderous crowd but an eerie silence of the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium would greet the teams. Some of the game’s best players—Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Chris Gayle, Andre Russell, David Warner, Rashid Khan, Jasprit Bumrah, Pat Cummins and Ben Stokes—thrive on the theatre of packed houses. But the crowd that drives the adrenaline of these giants to push them beyond the limits of human ability will be missing. Those seas of yellow and blue jerseys, those banners and painted faces won’t be around. The empty stadiums may conjure an image of imperfection but in this world of Covid-19, ILLUSTRATION: TAPAS RANJAN The BCCI faces innumerable challenges as it gears up to host the country’s national pastime, IPL, in the UAE. Playing in eerie silence and living in a bubble to avoid infections, cricketers face a daunting task to keep themselves motivated and sharp. Venkata Krishna B finds out how the board and franchises have made it possible as the desert blooms, come September 19. though surreal, this is like a new normal. IPL is a commercial behemoth, a multi-crore industry churning out entertainment that can be viewed from the confines of your homes. It’s a cash cow that helps the BCCI to not just earn but also keep the cricketing ecosystem well-oiled and running. Even in these times of peril and uncertainty, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) fastidiously ensured the hosting of the IPL, even though in a distant land. With chunk of revenue coming from broadcasters (`3,200 crore a year), lack of fans didn’t bother BCCI much. For a sports body that boasts of a fat bank ba ance, missing out on one IPL may l not mean much. There have been debates on why hold it at all if not in India. There were thr ts of cancellations due to lack ea of a window in the international calendar. The moment Austr lia said no to the T20 a World Cup because of Covid-19, BCCI got that opportunity . For BCCI, the IPL is more than just money It’s a system that pumps oxygen . into the cricket’s thriving ecosystem. The revenue generated helps BCCI conduct domestic tournaments across all agegroups. Men’s and women’s tournaments combined, the BCCI in 2019-2020 season conducted a record 2,035 matches. The operational costs for these matches, the salary hikes for domestic cricketers and umpires in the recent years have only added to its list of expenses. Throw in the pension scheme of cricketers and the money it shares with the state units for developmental purposes, the financial burden on BCCI only increases. And it needs the IPL to keep its cricketers and its system healthy . “People see the IPL only as an entertainment. But there is huge economic value attached to it which feeds many We . conduct so many matches and without the money we earn from IPL, it wouldn’t be possible. Our cricketers are among the best looked after and it has been possible only because of IPL. If IPL doesn’t happen so many players will suffer. So when there is a window, why not?” BCCI treasurer Arun Kumar Dhumal had explained the nuances of hosting the event. BUBBLE WRAP The BCCI is trying to do something unusual, and of course, daunting—shift the event to a different land bag and baggage—eight teams, match officials, television crew, commentators, event managers and officials to the UAE using charter flights. It has already flown in players and support staff from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka and 22 more will join them from England by September 17. A congregation of around 500 players, support staff and officials crisscrossing three cities will be a logistical challenge. Great shows require great entertainers. Enter the players. One of the biggest challenges for the franchises is to keep the players happy and motivated. They have a huge job in hand. Apart from managing their workload and ensuring smooth entry after a lengthy layoff because of the pandemic, the mental aspect of staying in the bio-secure bubble also needs to be addressed. Apart from Mumbai Indians, who allowed players to bring their families, most franchises have said no to family members. Players, who generally step out for a meal or a drink, have to keep themselves confined to their hotel rooms as much as possible. Entering each other’s room is a strict no-no. Frequent Covid-19 tests, expected to reach 20,000, and the need to follow the SOPs could be taxing. Turn to page 2 Disease Control: No Contact, Sharing of Bottles and Equipment Physical distancing, use of face masks, respiratory etiquette and any other rules necessary to prevent cross-infection will be followed by players and others. After sufficient quarantine and screening, each team will operate within a bubble, with regular health checks on each individual in the team. Players, support staff, match officials, operations teams, commentators, broadcast teams, and ground/hotel/security staff will be tested on a regular basis to reduce the risk of asymptomatic spread of the disease. The match and training venue, hotel and vehicles for transport will operate within the protocols defined for a bio-secure environment. Only those personnel who clear daily temperature checks and medical assessment (Health Passport), and hold a valid accreditation will be granted access to training and matches FIRST UP: TESTING Since landing in the UAE, everyone were subjected to three tests in six days and only after clearing all the tests they have been allowed to enter the bio-secure bubble. From there on there will be two tests every week for the first two weeks of stay. If players are required to visit a hospital for scans, special corridors will be created to avoid contact with any outsiders. THE BUBBLE The bio-secure environment measures will be in place throughout the IPL season and cover the hotels, training sessions, matches and transportation. Within these domains, different zones will be created to separate the franchise team members, match officials, cricket operations team, broadcast teams, ground staff, hotel staff and security personnel. HEALTH PASSPORT Players, support staff, staff involved in cricket operations, hotels, catering staff, drivers, ground staff, dressing room attendants and match officials have the Health Passport app authorised by BCCI on their phones, in order to complete the daily temperature and symptom monitoring. BLUETOOTH TRACKER BCCI will provide a tracking device in the form of a wrist band or FOB on the lanyard which must be worn by individuals at all times, including on the hotel premises. In case an individual returns a positive RT-PCR test, the device will help trace those individuals who have been in close contact during the previous 72 hours. Can be removed only during sleep time. TRANSPORTATION Individuals must travel to the venues only in the dedicated vehicles from a fleet of buses and cars accredited by BCCI which will be sanitised regularly. The drivers of all such vehicles will also be tested regularly for Covid-19 and complete the daily temperature and symptoms recording which will be updated in their Health Passports. THE ZONE IS SACROSANCT AND SHOULD NOT BE BREACHED ZONE 1 Dressing room, Match Official’s room and Field of Play ZONE 2 Inner Zone: All operational areas within the stadium complex PLAYERS’ MEET AND GREET RULE The team members must avoid any interaction with other guests in the hotel. Must avoid use of common areas used by other hotel guests viz. bars, restaurants, toilets, gyms, swimming pools, etc. All food items ordered from outside the hotel premises will be collected by a designated staff, who will sanitise the container and serve the contents on a clean sanitised plate. Zero-contact housekeeping and in-room service protocols will be followed. Hotel staff will deliver all items outside the room, ring the doorbell and leave. Members should open the door and collect the items a minute after the hotel staff has left. May be allowed to mingle within the team while maintaining social distancing. ZONE 3 Outer Zone: The area outside the stadium complex but within the boundary walls MATCH OFFICIALS AT TRAINING SESSIONS Players will arrive at the training venue dressed in their training kit to ensure time in the dressing room is minimised. Kits will be sanitised at the hotel before sending over to the player’s rooms. DRESSING ROOM There will be more vacant areas at the stadium and hence the dressing rooms may be expanded and do not have to remain within the traditional area. Venue Cricket Operation teams should consider using appropriate areas beyond the normal dressing room. The dressing rooms will be sanitised using a UV-C disinfection device. All Match Officials (MO) will follow the same social distancing and testing protocols as followed by the franchise teams. The on-field umpires must not collect sweaters, caps and other miscellaneous objects from the players. Individuals above 60 years age and underlying medical conditions will be excluded. OWN WATER BOTTLE All players and staff must have their own personal water bottle they drink from, which is easily recognisable as theirs. Marker pens can be used for marking each individual member’s bottle once allotted. Towels, sunscreen and lip balm must not be shared by anyone. VIEWING AREA Players and staff should only sit in designated seats, which are widely separated. Substitute fielders, team medical staff must be widely separated. All members must sanitise their hands before and after use of the fridge. The drinks box should have a foot pedal to open the box. OWN MICROPHONE, VENUE-SPECIFIC RULE FOR COMMENTATORS An exclusive crew will be identified for Abu Dhabi, and they will be based there and perform duties only at Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium. Two separate crews will be formed for Dubai International Stadium, Dubai, and Sharjah Cricket Stadium, Sharjah and they will be based in Dubai. The crew will perform duties only at their designated stadiums. Each commentator must be allotted a personal microphone for the entire duration of the tournament which must not be shared with other commentators. Each Broadcast crew must be allotted a personal headset and microphone for the entire duration of the tournament. While conducting on-field player interviews, commentators must follow social distancing protocols and maintain a minimum two-metre distance from the players. For on-field interviews, each team must be provided three clip-on mic at the start of the tournament to be exclusively used by players from that team.
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