“Don’t See Where The Gap Is”: Atherton Unsure About Remaining IPL Matches

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on Tuesday decided to indefinitely suspend the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021 after several players and support staff tested positive for the coronavirus. As per reports, the BCCI could lose in excess of Rs 2,000 crore if it fails to organise the remaining matches of the 14th edition of the IPL. Some reports also suggest that if the Covid situation is under control, the BCCI could stage the remaining matches in the September window just before the T20 World Cup. However, former England cricketer Michael Atherton feels that amid a packed international calendar, it would be very difficult for the BCCI to find a window to stage remaining IPL games.

“The IPL is obviously worth a lot of money to the global game – I think it brings in a third of the game’s global revenue – so people will be keen to see it staged, but the logistics are very tricky for the tournament now,” Atherton told Sky Sports News.

Atherton argued that IPL not only involves major Indian players but also several high-profile overseas players and ensuring their availability will be a big challenge, given how congested the international calendar is.

“It is a logistical challenge. The IPL not only has a high number of domestic Indian players, but players from all around the world,” he added.

The former England captain said that it would be hard to find a window long enough to stage the remaining matches. India are scheduled to travel to the United Kingdom to play the World Test Championship final against New Zealand from June 18-22, followed by a five-Test series against England, which will end on September 14.

“I just don’t see where the gap [in the schedule] is. India come to England for five Test matches in the summer – and that ends around mid-September. Then the T20 World Cup, which is supposed to be in India – but who knows, they may have to move that tournament to the UAE – takes place in mid-October,” said Atherton.

After the IPL was suspended indefinitely, there are reports suggesting that the BCCI could move the T20 World Cup to the United Arab Emirates and Atherton believes while there might be a little gap just before the marquee event, the availability of foreign players can’t be guaranteed.

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He also said that since Indian players would have spent long period inside bio-bubbles by then, asking them to spend another one month in the bubble with strict protocols in place would be too hard on them.

“There is maybe a gap there, but all countries will already have their pre-T20 World Cup preparations baked in now – England are due to go to Bangladesh and Pakistan, for example – and you’re also asking India’s players, who have spent long, long periods inside these bubbles, and then asking them to spend more time in one, it seems hard to me,” said Atherton, who played 115 Tests and 54 ODIs for England.

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