Friday, 22 October, 2021

Virus-hit IPL resumes in UAE today

Virus-hit IPL resumes in UAE today
Kolkata Knight Riders all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan attends a practice session on Saturday. – COLLECTED PHOTO

Indian Premier League hostilities will resume today in the United Arab Emirates in front of spectators, but without a host of top international stars after four months of pandemic suspension.

Fans will be in the stands for the first time in two years when Rohit Sharma's title-holders, Mumbai Indians, take on Mahendra Singh Dhoni's Chennai Super Kings in Dubai to restart the high-octane Twenty20 competition.

Kolkata Knight Riders’ Bangladesh ace all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan joined the practice session on Saturday. 

The tournament was halted in May because of a devastating surge in coronavirus deaths in India, prompting foreign players to rush for every available flight out. Many are not coming back.

England stars including Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan, Jofra Archer and Chris Woakes will be missing.

Australia fast bowler Pat Cummins, who signed for Kolkata Knight Riders for $2 million in 2020, will also be absent because of his partner's pregnancy.

Some England players are injured and others have opted to rest before next month's T20 World Cup.

But the personal reasons cited by some have been questioned, especially after India pulled out of the fifth and final Test in England because of a Covid outbreak in the tourists' camp.

"Some of the players were kind enough to inform us in advance about their withdrawal but one of them went about it in a very unprofessional manner," one franchise official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

India's players had been "dead scared" about the spread of coronavirus ahead of the Test, according to India cricket chief Sourav Ganguly.

But some English commentators accused India's players of being more worried about missing out on an IPL payday.

India's management strongly denied putting the IPL first.