IPL stars 'lucky' as Covid ravages India, says Woakes

New Delhi (AFP) –


IPL cricket stars are the "lucky" ones as they play the world's richest Twenty20 tournament while a coronavirus emergency ravages India, England all-rounder Chris Woakes told AFP.

Four players have tested positive and some, including England's Liam Livingstone, have left the IPL because of the coronavirus, which is infecting more than 300,000 people a day in India.

Games are being played in empty stadiums away from the crisis unfolding outside, where overwhelmed hospitals are running critically short of oxygen and beds.

The Indian Premier League, spread across six cities, comes before India is due to host the Twenty20 World Cup in October and November.

Woakes, who plays for the Delhi Capitals, said he was trying to stay positive in the bio-secure 'bubble' cocooning the eight IPL teams.

"It's a shame with the situation at the moment with the people all around the world having to deal with Covid, which isn't ideal," the 32-year-old said in an interview.

"Within the bubble we are trying to stay positive. We are very lucky that we still get a chance to play cricket and entertain people on the outside," he added.

Players including Australian Daniel Sams (Royal Challengers Bangalore) tested positive ahead of the tournament, while some withdrew because of concerns over the pandemic.

India has recorded more than 16 million cases and 187,000 deaths from the coronavirus. Per capita numbers are, however, much lower than in many other countries.

"Very different times we are all living in at the moment. It's a very different IPL, no fans, bio-secure bubble, so definitely has a different feel to it," said Woakes.

"To keep busy I have got two English teammates with me in Sam Billings and Tom Curran. We spend quite a lot of time together," he added.

- Ponting tips -

Woakes also said believes playing T20 cricket in Indian conditions is ideal preparation for the World Cup later this year.

"Bowling at some world-class players in India on small grounds, good pitches that can be as hard as it gets for a bowler," he said.

"Every IPL team is stacked with world-class players, so you are testing yourself against the best players in the world in tough conditions.

"Obviously (with) the World Cup being here at the end of the year, it's perfect preparation."

Delhi, who lost last year's final to five-time champions Mumbai Indians, are again in the chase helped by Woakes's five wickets in three games.

"It has been a great start for us, we have won three of our four games. I have enjoyed being part of the group, they have been very welcoming," said Woakes.

Woakes was bought by Delhi for $200,000 in 2020 but he skipped last year's edition, held in UAE because of the pandemic, for family reasons.

He said it was "surreal" to be working under Capitals coach Ricky Ponting -- and that he had received some batting tips from the former Australia captain.

"He certainly gave me a few little things to look at with my batting which is great," said Woakes, who has played 38 Tests and 104 one-day internationals for England.

"You want to tap into the knowledge of a world-class cricketer like he was. So that's been brilliant."

Ponting has changed "little technical things" on his batting and concentration. "A couple of things on my backlift which helps me access the ball a little bit easier at the back end of my innings."

The bowling all-rounder also appreciates playing with another former Australian captain, Steve Smith, who joined Delhi this season.

Woakes added that he supports "The Hundred" in England -- an upcoming tournament where each side will play just 100 balls, down from the 120 in T20.

"If you get the best players from around the world playing each other, it will be a good spectacle regardless of the format," said Woakes.