MUMBAI: In an ideal world, not brought down to its haunches by the coronavirus pandemic, the much-awaited 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) would have kickstarted on Sunday with all eyes on M.S. Dhoni as he would lead his Chennai Super Kings side against reigning champions Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede Stadium here.
Dhoni, on a sabbatical since India’s World Cup semi-final loss to New Zealand in 2019, would have played his first game in eight months.
India head coach Ravi Shastri had told IANS last year that the IPL would decide the fate of Dhoni, who will turn 39 in July. The former India captain was practicing with CSK but had to cut short his stay in Chennai after the IPL was pushed back due to the deadly virus which has so far taken 27 lives in India.
Rohit Sharma, leading MI, would have made a comeback from his injury he picked in New Zealand during the T20 series and as CSK and MI contests have been over the years, it would have been a cliffhanger drawing packed crowd to the venue where India lifted the World Cup in 2011 under Dhoni’s leadership.
Instead, with the government calling for a lockdown to fight the coronavirus outbreak, the Indian cricketers are all home and spending time with their families. But strength and conditioning coach Nick Webb in consultation with physio Nitin Patel has customised routines for Virat Kohli and boys to ensure they stay in top shape despite the pandemic induced break.
There is no live cricket in sight and the usual IPL frenzy at this time of the year is missing. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) believes that it can still pull off the league if things come under control by April end and the first game is played by the first week of May but the 21-day lockdown and the situation of the country has made things more uncertain.
Rohit recently said IPL can wait for the time being.
“We should first think about the country. The situation needs to get better first then we can talk about the IPL. Let life get back to normal first,” Rohit had said after leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal asked him about the cash-rich league.
What would have kicked off the annual cricket extravaganza in the country, is now nothing but a wait as the entire sports world across the globe is on ‘lockdown’, the biggest being the Tokyo Olympics which got postponed by a year.