Players under watch as IPL starts amid COVID-19 scare

Mumbai Indians hope to become the first side to win three straight Indian Premier League titles. AFP/Indranil Mukherjee

CHENNAI - Cricket chiefs have stepped up surveillance of star players of the Indian Premier League amid a rapid surge in coronavirus cases.

The world's richest Twenty20 tournament started with a gala game between reigning champions Mumbai Indians and Virat Kohli's Royal Challengers Bangalore in an empty stadium in Chennai.

Royal Challengers Bangalore won by two wickets.

READ: Mumbai in lockdown as Indian vaccines run short

All eight teams are in strict bio-bubbles and testing has been increased as case numbers have skyrocketed to more than 130,000 a day since players arrived to prepare for the eight-week spectacle.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has appointed bubble integrity managers to police each team.

The games are to be held in six cities and all players are also being monitored through tracking devices, team officials said.

READ: India spin star Patel tests positive for coronavirus ahead of IPL

"We are travelling in chartered planes and have created foolproof bio-security environment, so everything's under control," Chennai Super Kings chief executive Kasi Viswanathan told AFP, who added teams are also getting Bluetooth monitoring devices.

Four players including Indian spin star Axar Patel (Delhi Capitals) and Australia's Daniel Sams (Royal Challengers Bangalore) have tested positive.

Others have withdrawn because of pandemic fears.

READ: Kohli warns players 'suffering' in bubble life ahead of IPL season

Chennai, led by former India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, suffered a number of positive cases before last year's IPL which was held in the United Arab Emirates.

The 14th edition of the cash-rich event is being seen as a dry run for India as hosts of the T20 World Cup in October and November.


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