It’s official. The Indian Premier League (IPL) is well and truly on. The IPL Governing Council, which met on Sunday, decided that the premier domestic tournament will go ahead as planned, in the United Arab Emirates.
However, there’s a slight change to the schedule. It was decided that the tournament will be held from September 19 to November 10, and not November 8 as was reported earlier.
Though there has been a buzz of late that the tournament might be extended, it was all in the realm of speculation. However, the GC on Sunday confirmed that the tournament finale will, indeed, be staged on November 10.
Crowd in the stadium as IPL progresses
The GC ratified three venues for the tournament – Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah. However, in a development that might be of interest to viewers back home, the matches would start at 7.30 pm, India time, and not 8pm (prime time).
Hence, to those keen on catching the action live, here’s a polite reminder: tune in dot at 7.30pm and get those popcorns ready nice and early. On days when teams are scheduled to play double-headers, the afternoon games would start at 3.30pm, not 4pm as happened earlier.
In another key development, the meeting, chaired by Brajesh Patel, decided that while the initial batch of matches would be played before empty stands, crowds would be allowed in a trickle in games thereafter.
What’s more, even bigger crowds could be allowed as the tournament progresses. The Dubai administration has apparently given its nod to let spectators into the stadium.
The Governing Council also decided to continue with Vivo, the title sponsors of the event. There were speculations that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) might junk the big-money IPL title deal with the Chinese mobile phone manufacturer in the light of the recent border clash between Indian and Chinese troops at Galwan valley. The skirmish, which left many soldiers dead on both sides and was blamed on Chinese aggression on the border, led to a demand for boycott of all Chinese goods.
The meeting also decided to allow COVID replacements (like-for-like replacement should any player test Covid positive) during the tournament. It also approved a set of health protocols, which have been sent to the logistics partners so that they can put together a bio-secure environment for the players and support staff.
It also turns out that both Indian and overseas players will arrive in chartered flights, in a drill similar to the one that was followed during the recent Test series between England and the West Indies.
Also, the saliva ban and subdued celebration, as was mandated by the ICC (International Cricket Council) recently to ensure safety of cricketers, would also apply during the tournament.
There had been an element of uncertainty on the availability of overseas players for the tournament, but all doubts, in that regard, were put to rest by the Governing Council on Sunday.
It was learnt that the players and franchises would leave for the Emirates after August 26, and not earlier as was speculated before.
The current edition-13th edition of IPL- of the tournament will the also mark the first time that the final is staged on a week day. All previous finals were weekend fixtures, as it guaranteed maximum spectators and television viewers.
While it’s a public health emergency back home that forced the organisers to take the tournament to the desert lands of the Emirates, Indian viewers, it is hoped, would tune in and catch the matches live in just as many numbers as they used to earlier.
The franchises and tournament broadcasters are also banking on robust viewership numbers due to an expected fall in ticket sales.
Be that as it may, the stage is set for the cricket showpiece. Now let the action begin.