The fifth season of the 20-over Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) has been postponed again and is "unlikely" to go ahead this year due to the growing threat posed by the Covid-19 pandemic in the state.
The league was initially scheduled to run from June 10 to July 12, but the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) postponed the tournament in May, hoping to host it in the August-September window. On Saturday, the association issued a statement, saying it will now try to host the tournament in November 2020 or March 2021.*
There have been nearly 240,000 positive Covid-19 cases in Tamil Nadu, with nearly 58,000 still active, and the latest government order has prohibited sporting events in August. While Chennai continues to be among the worst-affected cities in India, Salem and Coimbatore, which were set to be introduced as new venues, have also recorded cases of Covid-19.
"The TNCA was looking at a window between end July-August to end September as a possible window for playing the 5th edition of the TNPL tournament. However, due to the ongoing Covid related issue in the State of Tamil Nadu, TNCA will not be in a position to host the tournament in this window," TNCA secretary RS Ramasaamy said in the statement.
"We will explore possibilities of playing the 5th edition of the tournament in an alternate window i.e either in November 2020 or in March 2021."
With IPL 2020 scheduled to run from September 19 to November 10 in the UAE, most of Tamil Nadu's top players - R Ashwin (Delhi Capitals), Dinesh Karthik (Kolkata Knight Riders), Vijay Shankar (Sunrisers Hyderabad), and M Vijay (Chennai Super Kings) - will be out of India.
A TNCA official told ESPNcricinfo official they may not be able to conduct the TNPL towards the end of the year as it may clash with a possible Indian domestic season. "The IPL is going to happen now and after the players may return from the IPL, the Ranji Trophy season may begin, so there is no window," he said.
The TNPL has attained sizeable popularity and following, especially in Tamil Nadu, providing a platform for youngsters to break into the IPL. Spinners Varun Chakravarthy, who was bought for INR 8.4 crore and INR 4 crore in 2018 and 2019 respectively, and R Sai Kishore, who was snapped up by the Chennai Super Kings for INR 20 lakh in the most recent auction, are among the league's success stories. Chepauk Super Gillies had won the 2019 edition of the tournament, beating Dindigul Dragons in the final.
*0950GMT: The story was updated after a statement from TNCA