NEW DELHI – Chennai Super Kings beat bottom side Sunrisers Hyderabad to go top of the IPL on Wednesday as the big-money tournament staged its first game in India’s coronavirus stricken capital.
Scores of police guarded the barricaded gates around the Feroz Shah Kotla ground in Dehli during the match which Chennai won by seven wickets in 18.3 overs.
Normally the stadium would be packed with 40,000 people for major cricket games.
But with Delhi accounting for more than a tenth of the 3,200 coronavirus deaths recorded across India each day, the city has been put under a night curfew and tough, daytime restrictions.
Only a handful of people were on the darkened streets around the stadium, kept empty as all IPL games have been this year.
Fans could only watch on television as Chennai raced past Sunrisers’ 171 for four, with Ruturaj Gaikwad hitting 75 off 44 balls and his fellow opener Faf du Plessis 56 off 38.
As the crisis grows, TV coverage is now regularly interrupted with appeals by commentators and pundits such as former Australian bowler Brett Lee and England spinner Graeme Swann for viewers to stay home and wear masks.
Lee has donated more than $50,000 to a fund to buy oxygen supplies for Indian hospitals. “It saddens me deeply to see people suffering due to the ongoing pandemic,” he said.
The IPL players are being moved around Indian cities in full PPE hazard suits with face masks. They are now tested every two days and cannot even order food from outside their bio-bubble hotels.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India has assured the players that they are “totally safe” but three Australians have left the IPL and many of the foreigners who remain say they are nervous.
“We are constantly talking about this situation that’s unfolding outside of our bubble,” said England and Kolkata Knight Riders captain Eoin Morgan this week. “It’s not nice to be honest, watching from afar, certainly considering how lucky we are to be in a bubble and not be affected by it very much.”
The IPL bubbles will remain tightly sealed around the players for the rest of the tournament which ends on May 30.
Inside the empty stadium, Australia’s David Warner went past 10,000 Twenty20 runs with his 57 for the Sunrisers.
Manish Pandey hit 61 and Kane Williamson and Kedhar Jadhav added 33 in the final 12 balls to boost the Hyderabad total.
Chennai were always ahead of the target however. Du Plessis’ quickfire innings made him the IPL’s leading scorer this year with 260 runs from six matches.
Chennai lead the eight-team table with five wins from six games and a better net run-rate than Virat Kolhi’s Royal Challengers Bangalore in second.
The same empty stadium will host reigning champions the Mumbai Indians against Rajasthan Royals on Thursday for Delhi’s second game.BSS/AFP