The 2021 Indian Premier League (IPL) has been suspended amid concerns over rising COVID infection levels in the country.
There have now been more than 20 million reported cases of the coronavirus in India, with 357,229 new infections reported on Tuesday.
Some 222,408 deaths from the virus have been recorded since the pandemic began.
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England and India playing a game of Twenty20 cricket in front of a packed stadium on 12 March 2021
But experts believe the true figure for COVID cases and fatalities is higher.
Announcing the suspension, the cricket authorities in India said the decision was made “keeping the safety, health and wellbeing of all the stakeholders in mind”.
The IPL preliminary games were set to end on 23 May, with qualifiers and eliminators to follow before the final on 30 May.
A number of England players – including Eoin Morgan, Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali – have been playing in the competition, but the England and Wales Cricket Board said earlier it was the individual’s decision whether to keep participating.
There was no suggested date for a resumption of the season – adding that the league had been run to try to bring “positivity and cheer” to India.
The suspension of the league comes after two games were called off this week following positive tests within the clubs.
On Monday, a game between Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalore had to be postponed after two players tested positive.
And earlier today, Chennai Super Kings announced that a coach and a member of support staff had tested positive for COVID.
It came ahead of their scheduled clash with Rajasthan Royals set to take place on Wednesday in New Delhi.
The statement from the Indian cricket authorities said: “The Indian Premier League Governing Council (IPL GC) and Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in an emergency meeting has unanimously decided to postpone IPL 2021 season, with immediate effect.
Indian hospitals have been running out of oxygen
“The BCCI does not want to compromise on the safety of the players, support staff and the other participants involved in organising the IPL. This decision was taken keeping the safety, health and wellbeing of all the stakeholders in mind.
“These are difficult times, especially in India and while we have tried to bring in some positivity and cheer, however, it is imperative that the tournament is now suspended and everyone goes back to their families and loved ones in these trying times.”
The statement added: “The BCCI will do everything in its powers to arrange for the secure and safe passage of all the participants in IPL 2021.
“The BCCI would like to thank all the healthcare workers, state associations, players, support staff, franchises, sponsors, partners and all the service providers who have tried their best to organise IPL 2021 even in these extremely difficult times.”
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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been criticised for not moving faster to fight the current spike in infections, as he allowed political rallies and religious festivals to continue throughout March and April.
England and India played numerous cricket games earlier this year before thousands of spectators, although crowds were removed around halfway through March.
The recent surge of new infections – faster than anywhere else in the world – has left the healthcare system in the world’s second-largest country by population on the brink of collapse.
Hospitals have been running out of oxygen, with families left trying to source supplies privately to try and help loved ones.