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CSK’s positive tests rock IPL ahead of restart

Indian artist Sudarsan Pattnaik gives the final touches to his sand sculpture depicting Indian cricket superstar M.S. Dhoni (L) and fellow World Cup winner, Suresh Raina. (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Twelve members of the Chennai Super Kings Indian Premier League team have tested positive for Covid-19, prompting its star batsman Suresh Raina to fly home to India and causing jitters ahead of the league’s planned start on September 19.

Ten of the positive Covid-19 tests were for non-playing staff in the CSK contingent, which is currently in Dubai. This year’s IPL is taking place in the United Arab Emirates because sports events are prohibited in India due to Covid-19 measures.

Board of Control for Cricket in India president Saurav Ganguly told the Times of India: “I cannot comment on the situation of CSK. We will see if they can start as per schedule. I hope the IPL will be conducted well. We have a long schedule for the tournament and I sincerely hope everything will go on just fine.”

Last week it was reported that new Covid-19 measures introduced to control an uptick in cases in Abu Dhabi was delaying the publication of the schedule for the tournament.

The positive Covid-19 tests in the CSK camp were one of the reasons Suresh Raina returned to India over the weekend. ESPNcricinfo reported that Raina was also apprehensive about living in a lonely, bio-secure environment and had been affected by a recent personal tragedy – it was reported that members of his family were violently attacked, and an uncle killed, in an incident in India earlier this month.

The IPL teams are isolated in bubbles in hotels in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. They must undergo six-day quarantines upon arrival in the UAE, and there are strict social-distancing guidelines. The teams are able to train together, however, and most have started doing so.

CSK team members are now in quarantine and will not be able to train for at least seven days. The Times of India reported that Australian CSK player Shane Watson said he believed the current situation is “just a little hiccup” and is hopeful the tournament can proceed as planned.

Uday Shankar, chairman of IPL host broadcaster Star India, told the Times of India the event would be “a global benchmark for any tournament to be held safely”. The tournament is taking place in three stadiums, and will involve more than 700 production crew. Star will have 90 commentators working in the UAE, India and other markets. In its production centre in Mumbai, more than 400 staff will work in a ‘bio-secure bubble’ in a six-floor production facility.

Shankar said he expects viewership of more than 550m in India for his company’s live and non-live IPL programming. There will be international distribution in more than 100 countries.

On Saturday, the BCCI announced Indian education technology company Unacademy as an Official Partner of the IPL for three years, 2020 to 2022.

Karan Shroff, Unacademy’s vice president – marketing, said: “Unacademy is a high-intensity brand that has disrupted the education and learning market with innovations and broken geographical barriers for learners and educators.

“With this partnership, we will double-down on our efforts to make Unacademy the biggest brand in the consumer-internet space in India. We thank the BCCI and IPL for the opportunity and look forward to a long and fruitful partnership.”

Sunrisers Hyderabad last week announced a partnership with Chinese television set manufacturer TCL covering this year’s tournament.

Mike Chen, general manager of TCL India, said, “Sunrisers Hyderabad is a promising team which has shown an upward trend in cricketing success and popularity among its huge fan base. Leveraging the team’s impressive and fast-growing reach, TCL will be able to expand visibility and solidify its leadership position across the country. More importantly, the strategic partnership gives us yet another chance to promote sports across the country by tapping into the pan-India passion for cricket.”

The BCCI and IPL teams have been busy agreeing sponsorship deals ahead of the start of this year’s tournament. Several sponsors have dropped out for financial and other reasons – IPL’s Chinese-owned title sponsor Vivo dropped out due to political tensions between China and India. Fast-growing Indian fantasy gaming firm Dream11 has signed up as league title sponsor for this season.

Updated: This story was updated on 1 September 2020 to remove the information that IPL players would be prevented from mingling with teammates during the tournament – this rule only applies during quaratine periods.