Less than a month after the IPL was suspended on May 4 following multiple cases of players and support staff testing positive for Covid-19, the tournament is back on track with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announcing that the remaining matches will be held in the UAE.
The 8-team tourney had begun on April 9 and was to have wrapped up on May 30 according to the original schedule. The new dates have raised concern of a clash in fixtures that may keep some overseas players away while the Indian senior men’s team is itself set to stay in England till September 14 as they meet the host country for a five-match Test series after the World Test Championship final against New Zealand.
31 Matches To Go
UAE is not an unknown venue for the T20 league as the entire IPL 2020 was held there amid restrictions in place in India last year. So, moving the remaining matches to the Gulf would have appeared to be the natural course for BCCI, especially with IPL 2020 being seen as having gone off without any major glitch.
Although the exact dates or schedule for the 31 matches has not been announced yet, officials would be looking at a mid-September to October first week window to conclude the tournament. That’s because, other things remaining constant, it is the only window visible now amidst India’s Test tour of England, where the last Test finishes September 14, and the T20 World Cup, which India is set to host from mid-October.
Covid-19 cases and deaths in India have started to drop after the wild surge of late April and early May, but BCCI did not mention the pandemic while announcing the venue shift, saying only that the UAE was chosen “considering the monsoon season in India”.
BCCI would be eager to complete IPL 2021 given its commitments to broadcasters and sponsors with a senior official reportedly saying earlier this month that the revenue loss for the board from a suspended tournament would amount to $270 million.
The IPL in 2009 had been held entirely in South Africa as it clashed with the Lok Sabha elections in India for a similar reason seeing the first part of the 2014 edition of the tournament being held in the UAE.
A Clash of Ties
While BCCI is working on the understanding that the mid-September-early October window means the IPL will not coincide with any other major cricket tournament or bilateral ties, things may not be as simple as that.
England and Australia are already building up towards this year’s Ashes, which starts in December, and then there is also the question of the World T20, which India is to host later this year. Reports suggest that franchises may not be able to count on the availability of all of their English and Aussie cricketers when the IPL resumes.
But that’s not all. West Indian cricketers, who make up a sizeable and important presence in the IPL, have their own domestic Caribbean Premier League (CPL) to worry about. That competition is scheduled to run till the second week of September, but there is talk that adjustments will be made to ensure that it does not clash with the IPL window.
Ashley Giles, the managing director of the England men’s team, has said there are no plans to change their calendar to make English players available for the IPL in UAE. England has bilateral commitments and Giles said that though the board may rest some players, it will not be the case that they can then go and resume participation in the IPL.
The World T20
A key consideration for all boards whose top players are involved in the IPL is the ICC World T20 which, as things now stand, is slated to commence right after the IPL wraps up in UAE.
While announcing the switch to UAE, the BCCI also said it has asked the International Cricket Council (ICC) for more time to decide whether India can host the World T20 meet in October and November.
According to reports, the board will take a call post June, and after reviewing the Covid-19 situation in the country, whether to go on as planned with the World T20 in India or shift it, too, to the UAE, the designated backup venue for the tournament.
What About The Logistics Of IPL?
Like last year, it will be the franchises themselves who will be responsible for making arrangements to ferry their players to the UAE.
The same protocols and standard operating procedures that were introduced for IPL 2020 in UAE will reportedly be in place for the remaining matches this year. Also, it is learnt that BCCI will work with the franchises on the issue of the availability of players and may consider allowing replacements for the teams that plead unavailability of players.