The mega Indian Premier League (IPL) is back in India after a year. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has decided to stage the 14th edition of the lucrative Twenty20 tournament in India across six venues from April 9 to May 30. However, keeping in view the volatile Covid-19 situation in the country the board decided to hold the matches behind closed doors, at least in the initial stages.
The BCCI was forced to shift the tournament to United Arab Emirates (UAE) last year when the pandemic was very severe in India. The board managed to hold the tournament without glitches last time, but keeping in view the huge market demand, it decided to bring it back to India.
The BCCI this season has decided to conduct all matches at neutral venues and hence none of the franchises will enjoy home advantage. All teams will play at four out of the six venues during the league stages which will consist of 56 games. “The VIVO IPL this year at home will be played behind closed doors to begin with and a call on allowing spectators will be taken at a later stage,” the BCCI said in a statement. Chennai will host the opener with defending champions Mumbai Indians taking on Royal Challengers Bangalore. The playoffs and the final will be held at the Motera Stadium in Ahmedabad. Besides Chennai and Ahmedabad, the other venues will be Bangalore Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata.
The IPL governing council is hoping to allow 50 per cent spectators at the stadiums around the last week of April unless there’s another massive rise in the number of Covid-19 cases. It is expected that crowds will be allowed when Eden Gardens will get to host its first match on May 9, involving Royal Challengers Bangalore and Sunrisers Hyderabad. The state will go to assembly polls from March 27 to April 29 with the counting of votes set for May 2. “The BCCI is adopting a safety-first approach, especially in view of the recent suspension of the Pakistan Super League because of Covid-19 cases. The IPL is an eight-team event as opposed to a bilateral series where two teams can be more easily managed in a bio-bubble,” a source said.
The afternoon games — there are 11 double-headers lined up — will begin at 3.30pm local time, while the evening matches are scheduled for 7.30pm (local time). “The fixtures of the tournament have been mapped in a way that every team will travel only three times during the league stage, thus reducing commute and minimising risk,” the statement said.
BCCI president Sourav Ganguly said allowing crowd would have been a bigger logistical issue compared to letting in limited fans during the recently-concluded Test series versus England. “We have planned it well and we are doing it in clusters. There will be three chartered flights (at the https://www.iplt20.com/) for every team. Hopefully, we will be able to manage,” he said. The former India skipper didn’t say when will the BCCI consider having crowds back for IPL. “Don’t know yet, depends on situation,” he stated.
The BCCI’s decision not to allow home matches has evoked mixed reactions from the franchises. “It’s a well thought-out and wise decision,” Punjab Kings CEO Satish Menon said. However, one of the franchises who have been denied the chance to play at home despite the venue hosting matches appeared upset. “How can franchises not play at home? The decision defies logic,” a top-ranked official fumed.
England players available for whole IPL: Silverwood
Meanwhile, England head coach Chris Silverwood confirmed that IPL-bound England players will be available for the entire tournament, which means those involved in the final stages are most likely to miss the opening Test against New Zealand. The IPL, slated to begin from April 9 with the final scheduled to be played on May 30, while the opening Test against New Zealand begins on June 2. “We haven’t looked at selection for the Test yet, so they will be staying for the whole IPL as it stands at the moment,” he stated.
England all-rounder Sam Curran also gave a clear indication that he might skip the home Test series against New Zealand provided his franchise side Chennai Super Kings play the IPL final on May 30. “If you are in the final, it might be a bit different. It’s still quite a way away. No one really knows how it’s gonna pan out, so yeah fingers crossed. Will see how the IPL goes,” he said. The 22-year-old all-rounder is looking forward to the tournament. “It’s great as a player to be playing in that tournament, especially with the T20 World Cup in India, it’s going to be great preparation, great for us to keep developing in these conditions,” Curran said.