MUMBAI (Reuters) - The start of the Indian Premier League Twenty20 tournament has been postponed until April 15 as a precautionary measure against the spread of the coronavirus, the Indian cricket board (BCCI) said on Friday.
It had been scheduled to begin on March 29.
The BCCI also confirmed on Friday that India’s home one-day international series against South Africa has been called off ahead of the second of three matches that was scheduled to be played in Lucknow on Sunday.
“Cricket South Africa will visit India at a later date to play three One-day Internationals. The BCCI-CSA will jointly work out the revised schedule,” a statement said.
The first match in the series was abandoned without a ball being bowled due to rain on Thursday.
The Indian government said late on Wednesday it would cancel almost all visas issued for travel to India until April 15 to try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“The Board of Control for Cricket in India has decided to suspend IPL 2020 till 15th April 2020, as a precautionary measure against the ongoing Novel Corona Virus (COVID-19) situation,” the board said in a statement.
“The BCCI is concerned and sensitive about all its stakeholders, and public health in general, and it is taking all necessary steps to ensure that, all people related to IPL including fans have a safe cricketing experience.”
More than 134,500 people have been infected globally and more than 4,900 have died because of the flu-like virus, according to a Reuters tally of government announcements. Sport events have been either cancelled or postponed globally in recent weeks.
The 13th season of the eight-team IPL had been scheduled to start with a match between defending champions Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings.
The cash-rich IPL, featuring celebrity owners and top business houses, draws the world’s top cricketers. As per the previous schedule, the franchise-based competition was set to run for seven weeks with the final on May 17.
The IPL’s brand value has soared over the years since its 2008 launch and grew to an estimated $6.8 billion in 2019, according to New York-based corporate finance advisory firm Duff & Phelps.
Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly and Nick Said; Editing by Timothy Heritage and Toby Chopra