India not Germany: Ganguly on no fans top-flight cricket

Sourav Ganguly

MUMBAI: With the option of playing in empty stadiums increasingly being talked up by administrators across sports, BCCI president Sourav Ganguly, however, sees little chance of that happening with top-flight cricket in India "anytime soon".

"The social reality of Germany and India are different, there will be no cricket in India in the near future," Ganguly told Times of India on Tuesday. "There are too many ifs and buts involved. More importantly, I don't believe in sport when there is a risk to human life."

Harbhajan Singh, the former India offspinner who is part of the Chennai Super Kings team in the IPL, concurred. "When IPL teams travel, there's a huge crowd at the airports, hotels, outside the stadium. How are you going to stop them if you are looking to maintain social distancing? There should be no top-flight cricket till there is a vaccine for COVID-19."

So where does that leave the suggestion put forward by former India captain Sunil Gavaskar, in an interaction with India Today, that the T20 World Cups in 2020 and 2021, to be held in Australia and India respectively, be swapped if the situation is sufficiently under control in India. "As we all know, Australia has barred foreigners from entering the country till September 30. The tournament starts in mid-October so it is looking difficult at the moment," Gavaskar told the media house.

"Next year the T20 World Cup is scheduled in India. If India and Australia come to an agreement and the COVID-19 curve in India flattens out, they can swap. It can be held in India this October-November and next year in Australia."

However, holding high-profile events like the T20 World Cup or the IPL in India - in empty stadiums - is not an easy task. "Did you see the crowds during our practice sessions at Chepauk when we said we can't allow people inside the ground. Lives are at stake, you can't control Indian crowds that easily. Yes, there will be financial losses, but we have to live with it," said Chennai Super Kings CEO KS Viswanathan.

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