Ever since the coronavirus pandemic brought the global sport to a halt in March, in terms of cricket, the Indian Premier League had been the focal point for many. Just like many other sporting events, like the Olympics, the Wimbledon or the European Football Championships, the year 2020 claimed a lot of sporting casualties and the IPL was one of them.
After much pondering, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) decided last year’s tournament in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), albeit with a five months delay from its stipulated schedule.
Despite the pandemic, the IPL was a huge hit when it came to revenue from TV viewership. It broke all records and the reason was that due to the pandemic – most fans stayed indoors and could not visit the stadiums and hence they watched the games on their television sets.
After the BCCI signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) during last year’s IPL, with the Arab nation- it was seen as a back-up option to host the world’s premier T20 event this season too.
Given the easing of the pandemic, a lot of time was spent on discussing the venue options for this year’s IPL. A second consecutive edition in the UAE is an option though the BCCI would like the tournament to be held in India itself.
What the IPL means
The IPL is the BCCI’s biggest revenue earner. The board would earn close to Rs 2,000 crore from the tournament-related revenues.For long, the BCCI has waited with bated breath for the International Cricket Council (ICC) to make this decision so that it could lock a window for the IPL without further ado.
According to the sources within the BCCI, the Organising Committee has shortlisted the Wankhede Stadium, Brabourne Stadiums in Mumbai and DY Patil Stadium, Reliance Cricket Stadium in Navi Mumbai. Apart from these four stadia, the Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) Stadium on the outskirts of Pune has also been tick marked as a potential venue for the two-month-long tournament. It is believed that the Sardar Patel Stadium in Motera could also be used for the more important matches like the knockouts during the end of May.
When having spectators in the stadiums is not an option and all the matches will be televised, it matters little which ground a match is played on, as per the BCCI sources.
The most important aspect of it all – the fact that hosting the IPL in India will be hugely beneficial to the country’s economy.
From a sporting point of view, the players and International teams will be keen to use the IPL as a dress-rehearsal for the ICC T20 World Cup, which is slated to be hosted by India in October this year.
Tournament will run from Apr 2nd week to June 1st week..
— Ramesh Bala (@rameshlaus) January 31, 2021
IPL and the challenges
However, the big challenge then would be to create a bio-secure bubble for everyone involved in the tournament. And once the BCCI gave the nod to the tournament, it must be convinced that that is a manageable thing to do. The tournament is expected to exceed 50 days — the 2020 edition lasted 53 days — will present the BCCI with a variety of challenges, including those like regular testing at venues.
As of now In India, only the frontline Covid-19 workers like the police, health staff etc. are getting vaccinated in the first phase. The second phase, the date of which hasn’t been announced, will see those above 50 and those under 50 with co-morbidities get vaccinated.
Keeping in mind the teams travel very frequently during IPL, often every second or third day-covid-19 tests are required on arrival at every venue along with a period of quarantine.
Just to note, the BCCI has decided to do away with the Ranji Trophy-India’s premier first-class tournament as it may have had to be split in two halves — one prior to IPL and one after the IPL.
A tournament of the scale of the IPL generates a lot of employment and has vast interests of a lot of parties including the players and the BCCI. Maybe, this time on-field action will take precedence over off-the-field procedures!