Five players, including Delhi Capitals’ Ravichandran Ashwin, Royal Challengers Bangalore’s Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson, Rajasthan Royal's Andrew Tye and Liam Livingstone, have decided to leave the IPL 2021 due to concerns over rising Covid cases in India.

While the Board of Control for Cricket in India has said that the IPL 2021 will continue, the debate over whether it’s appropriate to continue with the IPL tournament has intensified with the exit of these players.

Surging Covid cases

India has been recording close to 3.5 lakh coronavirus cases in the past few days, making it the worst Covid-affected country in the world. The healthcare system in India has been teetering on the brink, amid crippling shortages of hospital beds, oxygen supplies, ventilators and essential medicines.

Many people have taken to social media raising questions over why the IPL is still continuing given the humanitarian crisis that India is grappling with. Former Australian player Adam Glichrist had raised questions about the appropriateness of holding the matches given that many people are suffering. "Best wishes to all in India. Frightening Covid numbers. #IPL continues. Inappropriate? Or important distraction each night? Whatever your thoughts, prayers are with you," Gilchrist had tweeted.

On Monday, R Ashwin tweeted: “I would be taking a break from this year’s IPL from tomorrow. My family and extended family are putting up a fight against #COVID19 and I want to support them during these tough times. I expect to return to play if things go in the right direction. Thank you @DelhiCapitals (sic).” According to a PTI story, Andrew Tye told 'SEN radio' from Doha that he decided to leave the IPL 2021 as he feared getting locked out of Australia, his home country.

RCB Bangalore also tweeted : “Adam Zampa & Kane Richardson are returning to Australia for personal reasons and will be unavailable for the remainder of #IPL2021. Royal Challengers Bangalore management respects their decision and offers them complete support.”

‘IPL a stress buster’

Lloyd Mathias, Business Strategist and former Marketing Head of PepsiCo, Motorola & HP APAC said that cancelling IPL would not be a good idea, “I think more than the difficulty – financial and otherwise - in cancelling the IPL at this stage, it is important to understand whether it needs cancelling. The commercial aspects are, at this point in time, secondary to this huge humanitarian challenge. However, I think the IPL is doing more good than bad as it’s acting as a pressure release from the horror all around. And at least the thousands of patients home quarantined and healthcare workers off work, have something to entertain themselves with. Not to forget all the livelihoods that the IPL sustains, that is helping sustain an already beleaguered economy."

Echoing similar views, Giraj Sharma, founder-director of Behind the Moon, pointed out that cancelling it would also be a legal nightmare even though the agreements would certainly have a force majeure clause. “Then the logistics of sending players and support staff back will be a nightmare and too risky.”