The lead-up to the 14th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) hasn't been smooth. Surge in COVID-19 cases did not leave the players untouched. Coronavirus cases have come up both in Chennai and Mumbai - the venues for the first leg of the IPL. While many have questioned if the league can indeed be held without hurdles in such trying times, Star India Sports Head Sanjog Gupta believes a successful IPL is just the signal the country needs.
Speaking to , Sanjog threw light on how the conduct of the tournament in India after the 13th edition was held in UAE will bring in a sense of normalcy for the people in the country.
"I think for the BCCI to have the IPL in India benefits all stakeholders because it creates that level of bonds and awareness and fervour that having the event abroad would not. Franchises benefit because brands and sponsors can activate the brand. Even if there's no big crowd at the stadium, there is a possibility of activation, which presents itself for both ground sponsors of BCCI and sponsors of the team.
"I think for the nation at large, it is something that was required. One, purely to drive the sentiment that has been positive, more towards positivity, and I think, a certain resumption of normalcy attached with IPL returning to its original window and happening in India. I think that's very important, given that over the last four months, we have seen India bounce back, and this could potentially be, that big green flag, which signals our continuing path to recovery and bouncing back. It also plays a part in the sentiment of the country.
"IPL happening in India, would bring a certain level of relief may be subliminal, but it does deliver that to millions of people across the country. The third and final cause is that as the country moves forward with its vaccination drive -- in an attempt to completely overcome the challenge of the pandemic -- the IPL happening at the same time again, to some extent restores positivity in the environment, and that things are truly moving forward, and progress is being made. It brings a lot of positivity, optimism and hope, which the country needs in times like these," he explained.
Sanjog believes having a successful IPL will also boost India's position when it comes to hosting the T20 World Cup later in the year. "I think the IPL will set the stage for the T20 World Cup to happen in India and will be a huge vote of confidence for India's ability to host the tournament," he said.
But doesn't the caravan mode make hosting the IPL a little more difficult considering there will be multiple bubbles and movement? The Star India Sports Head begs to differ and feels it is the most effective option in such a scenario.
"Let's first understand what the caravan model means and why it was necessary. Firstly, the caravan model significantly reduces the risk to the operation in two ways. One, it unifies travel between teams, so you don't have to take multiple flights, thereby reducing the number of touch points that the teams or the players will have with the outside world because they're travelling together.
"The second thing that it does is it streamlines and minimises the number of flights that any player will have to take, which again minimises touch points and a possible risk of infection by minimising the exposure. So, any player will have to take a maximum of four flights during IPL. The flight applies from leg one to leg two, applies from leg two to leg three and in case the team happens to be in the playoffs applies from leg three to the playoffs and perpetually back home. So, once someone lands in Mumbai, there are only four flights that any player or any members of the support staff or for that matter any crew member who is travelling from venue to venue will have to take," he explained.
"So, the caravan model was the most effective scheduling principle or the most effective mode of operation for this IPL to be held in India. If anything, it has reduced the challenge that a typical IPL would have presented if it were to not follow this model.
"Having said that, obviously, this also means that we need to set up our secure bubble in Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Kolkata and Delhi beyond Mumbai and Chennai. Same design principles are followed which is the case that is precisely what the BCCI is doing. Then it should not be an additional challenge to safety. It is an additional logistical challenge because you have to go to the city and set up multiple bio-secure bubbles, but if that is enabling every player and member of the crew, and those involved in delivering the IPL to millions of homes in the country, that is a difficult challenge fully worth taking."
Asked to elaborate on the steps that needed to be taken, Sanjog said: "In terms of challenge, I think the first thing that we tried to do is try to design the bio-secure bubble in a way that is more secure than last time. And have also incorporated learnings that we had from the implementation of the bio-secure bubble last time.
"To begin with, we will have four bio-secure bubbles, three in Mumbai and one in Chennai, which is less than what we did last time. Last time if you remember, we had three bio-secure bubbles in UAE, and two in Mumbai. So, in terms of the execution of the bio-secure bubbles, we've taken the call, in consultation with our panel of distinguished doctors to make the security and safety measures for the bio-secure bubble more secure than they were last time."
The host broadcasters have taken special care to ensure that the crew members and commentators don't feel the stress that may come with being in a bubble.
"There are going to be more than 700 crew members across the bio-secure bubbles plus there are going to be close to 100 commentators who will be working with us during the period of the IPL. These crew members and commentators need to be safe and feel safe inside the bio-secure bubble without having to feel that they're being confined. There is a delicate balance between ensuring their safety, but at the same time, not making them feel that they are in confinement.
"And that, to us, is the second challenge. To constantly balance a certain degree of freedom, which we want everyone to have so that they feel productive and most motivated to do their best, but at the same time, are safe and feeling safe.
"The third challenge, of course, is the situation outside the bio-secure bubble. Most of the crew members have families outside the bio-secure bubble, whom they will be worried about. So, it was important for us to ensure that there is a feeling that their families are taken care of, to the extent that they can be and have some sort of services available to their family members, which is something that we have done this time, which is different from last time. So, there is an attempt at providing services to the direct family members of the crew that is going to be inside the bio-secure bubble," he explained.
( With inputs from ANI )
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