'Crass commercialism': Virus crisis sparks India newspaper IPL ban

New Delhi (AFP) –


A leading Indian newspaper group suspended coverage of the Indian Premier League on Sunday, calling the glitzy cricket tournament "commercialism gone crass" and "incongruous" as a record-breaking pandemic surge grips the country.

Express Publications said in a front-page editorial of its flagship English-language daily, the New Indian Express, that the paper was halting reporting on the Twenty20 event until a "semblance of normalcy is restored".

The Morning Standard and the Sunday Standard -- two other English-language newspapers in their stable -- shared the same editorial.

The money-spinning event being held behind closed doors -- and running to May 30 -- is hosted by the world's richest and most powerful cricket board and enjoys huge popularity among the country's sports fans.

Cricket-mad India has recorded a dramatic surge in infections and deaths this month, with thousands of patients scrambling for beds, oxygen and medicine.

Crematoriums and graveyards have held round-the-clock funeral services.

"In such a tragic time, we find it incongruous that the festival of cricket is on in India," the newspaper group said.

"This is commercialism gone crass."

The media company said it was not against the competition but its timing, adding: "Cricket, too, must accept that we are passing through an unprecedented crisis."

The group has newspapers that are published in more than 30 cities in southern India, where it has a large readership.

On social media, some hailed its decision and called on IPL organisers to show sympathy with the pandemic's growing list of victims.

Others defended the IPL, saying it was a useful distraction.

Former star Australian wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist tweeted: "Best wishes to all in India. Frightening Covid numbers. #IPL continues. Inappropriate? Or important distraction each night? Whatever your thoughts, prayers are with you."