IPL to lead cricket in the post-COVID-19 world
With a lot of unanswered questions, the Indian Premier League (IPL) has found its new venue — it will now be held outside the country for only the third time.
With a lot of unanswered questions, the Indian Premier League (IPL) has found its new venue — it will now be held outside the country for only the third time. The powerhouse that is the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), which was hard-pressed to chalk out the return of Indian cricketers on field, has taken its marquee event to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah slated to host the IPL 2020 matches.
The road for IPL 2020 had cleared up after the International Cricket Council (ICC) pulled its plugs on the T20 World Cup, as the tournament joined a growing list of cancelled or postponed sporting events world over.
For IPL, finding a window in cricket’s jam-packed calendar was not as challenging as picking a venue—all along there were rumours of the tournament being taken to Australia, South Africa and even Sri Lanka. The eventual choice of UAE as the venue—a country with comparatively relaxed quarantine regulations—always remained a strong possibility until the BCCI and the IPL Governing Council eventually made their call.
However, the IPL 2020 still has one hurdle left to clear. The approval from the Indian government is mandatory, and Team IPL is confident of getting the necessary permission.
For BCCI, this year’s IPL ensures that it does not stand a chance of losing revenue than estimated—one season of the T20 extravaganza gets the Indian board up to Rs 4,000 crores.
Keeping in mind the Bombay High Court’s decision instructing the BCCI to pay Rs 4,800 crores to the Deccan Chronicles Holding Ltd (DCHL) in their eight-year dispute over the termination of the company’s IPL team Deccan Chargers, the BCCI bigwigs will only find some positivity in a year full of disappointments.
Apart from the government nod, the BCCI has bigger challenges lined up. Logistics of organising an IPL is one of the biggest areas that was functioning like well-oiled machinery, which was developed over the past few years. With the home grounds of various IPL teams fortified as far as logistics are concerned, the BCCI was also able to take IPL matches to non-regular venues like Indore and Dharamsala.
The task will now be to ensure not only a smooth organisation of the IPL matches in new locations but also activities around it, such as team training sessions and players’ media sessions. Emulating the bio-bubble model which is in place for the ongoing England-West Indies Test series could also be an option, and BCCI will need a near-perfect approach and workforce to execute the same.
Even when the world was coming to terms with effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the prospect of organising IPL this year was backed by players both India and abroad. For, the IPL provides them with an opportunity to sharpen up their T20 skills and with two T20 World Cup lined up over the next as many years, it will only help them prepare well alongside big earnings.
However, the IPL 2020 is coming to existence with some tough questions lingering around. It has been finalised at a time when the Indian board decided not to send over its women’s team to England for a tri-series. IPL will require a far bigger number of people travelling from India to the UAE. The coronavirus has not lost its grip over the UAE entirely—as of Friday there were more than 250 active positive cases —but according to Khaleej Times, the cases in the country have been ‘steadily declining over the past three weeks’.
The IPL is an industry in itself. Far too many livelihoods depend on the two-month jamboree: from the local groundsmen to those working inside the stadiums in various capacities, to even those part-time hawkers who set up their shops selling team jerseys on roads and lanes leading to stadiums. None of these will have any revenue from India’s biggest yearly cricket event, which only adds to their disappointment.
IPL 2020 in UAE also means that fans— who fill up all venues to the brim without fail even if they do not turn up in big numbers in other international and domestic matches in the country—will miss catching up the action from inside the stadiums. Allowing fans inside stadiums is a distant possibility as of now in India, but talks have already emerged of a handful of fans being allowed inside stadiums in the UAE.
There is also a possibility of a clash of dates for Caribbean players, with the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) starting August 19 and ending on September 10, leaving them with less time to make it to the Gulf, acclimatise and be ready while keeping in mind the threat of the coronavirus.
But the biggest positive which perhaps has not yet been talked about much is that IPL 13 will have teams in their present forms competing for one last time before the franchises disband and organise or assemble fresh squads from the 2021 IPL auction.
While the CPL will be the first key multi-team tournament to be played since the COVID-19 pandemic hit cricket, the success of IPL 2020 will lead world cricket back to normalcy.
(Devarchit Varma is a sports journalist who has worked with Hindustan Times and CricketCountry. He tweets at @devarchit.)