Cricket chiefs called a halt to the money-spinning Indian Premier League (IPL) on Tuesday as Covid-19 continued to rampage across the country.
The sport’s biggest revenue-generating event – said to be worth $6.8bn – annually attracts the world’s top cricketing stars but had come under severe criticism for continuing as coronavirus cases surged across the country.
Now cricket officials have finally suspended the T20 tournament after India saw 10 million more cases in just over four months.
"These are difficult times, especially in India, and while we have tried to bring in some positivity and cheer, it is imperative that the tournament is now suspended and everyone goes back to their families and loved ones in these trying times," the IPL said in a statement.
With 3.45 million active cases, India recorded 357,229 new infections over the last 24 hours, while deaths rose 3,449 for a toll of 222,408, health ministry data showed. Experts, though, say actual numbers could be five to 10 times higher.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government is reluctant to impose a national lockdown for fear of the economic fallout but several states have already imposed social curbs.
The cricket-obsessed nation's halt to the IPL tournament was a result of the virus crisis, its chairman, Brijesh Patel, said. The tournament, with an estimated brand value of $6.8 billion, was already being played without spectators to a huge television audience this year but had been slated for continuing with the country's healthcare system on the brink of collapse.
Government modelling points to a virus peak on Wednesday, a few days earlier than a previous estimate, since the virus has spread faster than expected.
India's surge has coincided with a dramatic drop in vaccinations, hit by problems with supplies and delivery.
At least three states, including Maharashtra, the richest and home to the commercial capital of Mumbai, reported a scarcity of vaccines, even shutting down some vaccination centres.
On Monday the state had injected 79,491 doses, down from a record 534,372 a week ago.
- With reporting by Reuters