MUMBAI: The start of the Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 tournament has been postponed until April 15 as a precautionary measure against the spread of the coronavirus, the Indian cricket board (BCCI) said on Friday.
It had been scheduled to begin on March 29.
The BCCI also confirmed on Friday that India’s home One-day International series against South Africa has been called off ahead of the second of three matches that was scheduled to be played in Lucknow on Sunday.
“Cricket South Africa will visit India at a later date to play three ODIs. The BCCI and CSA will jointly work out the revised schedule,” a statement said.
The first match in the series was abandoned without a ball being bowled due to rain on Thursday.
The Indian government said late on Wednesday it would cancel almost all visas issued for travel to India until April 15 to try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“The Board of Control for Cricket in India has decided to suspend IPL 2020 till 15th April 2020, as a precautionary measure against the ongoing Novel Corona Virus (COVID-19) situation,” the board said in a statement.
“The BCCI is concerned and sensitive about all its stakeholders, and public health in general, and it is taking all necessary steps to ensure that, all people related to IPL including fans have a safe cricketing experience.”
More than 134,500 people have been infected globally and more than 4,900 have died because of the flu-like virus, according to a Reuters tally of government announcements. Sport events have been either cancelled or postponed globally in recent weeks.
The 13th season of the eight-team IPL had been scheduled to start with a match between defending champions Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings.
ENGLAND END SL TOUR
Also on Friday, England’s cricket team abruptly pulled out of a tour of Sri Lanka over the “unprecedented” crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
A practice match in Colombo was halted as the team announced they would be flying back to London, and the first of two Test matches due to start on March 19 has been indefinitely postponed.
“At this time, the physical and mental well-being of our players and support teams is paramount,” said an England and Wales Cricket Board statement announcing the end of the tour.
“We will now look to bring them home to their families as soon as possible. These are completely unprecedented times, and decisions like this go beyond cricket.”
The four-day practice game against a Sri Lankan Board President’s XI side was halted near the end of the second day.
England were fielding when captain Joe Root came on to call the players off.
The match attracted few spectators. Only a handful of England fans and a dozen locals were at the grounds to watch the two teams ahead of the first Test in Galle.
Root made it clear this week that players had been told to take extra precautions and not have contact with fans or members of the opposing team.
“It is against our nature as a team, we quite like to socialise and interact with fans and take selfies, autographs and stuff. But it means that we can’t do that on this trip,” Root told reporters on Wednesday.
There were no handshakes between the teams before the practice game.
Sri Lanka has reported just three coronavirus cases since the start of the crisis.
“We were told that England wants to return because of the threat of the coronavirus,” a Sri Lankan cricket official told AFP. “They decided to stop the practice match immediately and get back home.”