'Matches may go on without spectator crowd.'
The remaining two One-Day Internationals between India and South Africa will be played in empty stadiums following an order by the government to combat the spread of coronavirus.
With just 68 confirmed cases and no deaths, India has so far been relatively unscathed by the virus compared to elsewhere in Asia, Europe and North America. But experts fear that its overstretched medical systems may not be able to handle the type of intensive care required to handle a spike in infections.
New Delhi said late on Wednesday it will cancel almost all visas issued for travel to the country until April 15, in one of the most far-reaching attempts to prevent the spread of the virus.
On Thursday, the sports secretary said it wants Indian team's upcoming matches to be played in empty stadiums -- an unheard-of occurrence for one of India's national obsessions.
The chief ministers of two states where India is due to play matches against South Africa this month "have been advised to avoid gathering of people," RS Jhulaniya told Reuters. "Matches may go on without spectator crowd".
The opening ODI against South Africa in Dharamsala on Thursday was called off due to rain, while the last two matches will be held in Lucknow (March 15) and Kolkata (March 18).
While the Uttar Pradesh Cricket Association (UPCA) confirmed that Lucknow ODI will be held behind closed doors, the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) has also put ticket sales on hold with immediate effect, an indicator of things to come.
The sports ministry has issued an advisory that in case it's unavoidable to postpone a sporting event, then it is preferable that it be conducted without a large public gathering.
"The BCCI is in receipt of the sports ministry's advisory. Obviously, if we are advised to avoid large gatherings, we will have to abide by it," a BCCI source said.
UPCA secretary Yudhveer Singh confirmed the development to the reporters in Lucknow on Thursday.
"After receiving the government advisory, we had a discussion with BCCI officials and then decided that spectators will be barred from entering the stadium during second ODI between India and South Africa on March 15," Yudhveer said.
The Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) has decided to put ticket sales on hold, informed president Avishek Dalmiya, who also met Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at the state secretariat in Kolkata to discuss the prevailing situation.
"I met our honourable CM at the secretariat. We would like to adhere to the government directive that has been issued today and we are stopping all ticket sales with immediate effect. We will wait till further directive," Dalmiya told PTI from Kolkata.
Brijesh Patel, governing council chairman of the Indian Premier League, the country's premier domestic cricket tournament due to start later this month, said the organisation would meet on Saturday to discuss "all possibilities" regarding the tournament, including visas issues for overseas players and the possibility of playing matches in empty stadiums.
Tourist and business travel has already dipped sharply this year, but the visa ban will take activity to an "all time low", according to Chetan Gupta, general secretary of the Association of Domestic Tour Operators of India.
As one of the world's most popular travel destinations, millions of people in the country rely on tourism for employment. Around 10 million foreign tourists visit the country each year, according to government data.
"All our members are suffering at the moment," Gupta said. "No one has any business at all - inbound, outbound or domestic."
Since emerging in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, the flu-like coronavirus has infected more than 126,000 and killed over 4,600 people globally, according to Reuters calculations.