The Indian Premier League is not only one of the world's most lucrative annual sporting properties but also among the most durable, with not even the lengthening shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic apparently able to stop the Twenty20 juggernaut.
Royal Challengers Bangalore all-rounder Daniel Sams has tested positive for Covid-19 ahead of the cash-rich tournament, which begins on Friday. The 28-year-old Australian is the third player to test positive inside the IPL's bio-secure bubbles after Delhi Capitals spinner Axar Patel and Kolkata Knight Riders batsman Nitish Rana.
Sams' Bangalore team mate Devdutt Padikkal tested positive before he joined up with the squad, while Mumbai Indians scout and wicketkeeping consultant Kiran More is isolating after contracting the virus.
Last year's delayed tournament was shifted to the United Arab Emirates but the 14th edition returns to India, where the coronavirus situation has worsened significantly in recent weeks.
The surge in new cases could yet scupper plans to host the tournament in bio-secure bubbles at six venues across the country, starting on Friday in Chennai and climaxing at the world's largest cricket stadium in Ahmedabad on May 30.
The Indian cricket board (BCCI), however, is bullish about the chances of pulling it off.
"We did it successfully in Dubai last year. We are confident we are going to do it again this time," BCCI chief Sourav Ganguly told Reuters.
Champions Mumbai Indians, captained by Rohit Sharma, and Virat Kohli's Royal Challengers Bangalore get the eight-team tournament going at M.A. Chidambaram Stadium on Friday.