The IPL Governing Council (GC) will meet virtually on Sunday evening to put in place processes and protocols for staging the Indian Premier League in the UAE. The tournament is planned from September 19 to November 8, although the Indian board is still awaiting permission from the Indian government to hold the event abroad.
There is unease among stakeholders as there is no word yet from the government. The BCCI has sent a letter of intent to the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) for hosting the league. Indian board officials, who didn’t wish to be identified, are positive: “The home ministry’s latest guidelines which didn’t open up sporting activities till August 31 is an indicator it will allow IPL to move overseas,” they say.
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Without the official nod, the meeting may not be able to finalise the schedule, which the eight franchises are seeking at the earliest to take it to their sponsors and seal deals. Broadcasters too are yet to start promotional campaigns and ad sales as they wait for the official confirmation. They hope BCCI will be ready with a provisional schedule at the meeting.
The governing council will be expected to share the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) with the franchises. Without that, teams cannot plan training camps. Chennai Super Kings want to fly to the UAE by August 12 while most others teams want a month’s preparatory camp there. “The SOPs will hopefully spell out what the quarantine rules are for sporting activity in the UAE. Only then can we plan our training schedule,” a franchise official said.
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Details such as the squad strength and support staff to carry, stipulated numbers in the dug-outs, whether there will be provision for replacement players, Covid-19 testing procedure, reaction mechanism in case of a positive case are all clarifications franchises seek from BCCI.
Two teams being allowed to stay in the same hotel and whether to allow at least certain number of fans or to hold games behind closed doors will need to be decided in coordination with the UAE’s safety protocols.
The other worry for franchises is uncertainty over the availability of England and Australia players in the first week of IPL. Australia’s limited overs series in England will end on September 16. There are 17 players from Australia and 13 from England in IPL 2020. Top Australia players, including Sunrisers Hyderabad skipper David Warner, Rajasthan Royals captain Steve Smith, Glenn Maxwell and KKR’s Pat Cummins will be picked for the bilateral series. “Can these players be flown in the very next day, how soon will they be available for action, what will the quarantine rules be like, we don’t know,” said another franchise official.
Rajasthan Royals, captained by Steve Smith, have major England presence in Jofra Archer, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler. South African players are key to Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore (AB de Villiers, Chris Morris and Dale Steyn) besides Aaron Finch and Moeen Ali. Sunrisers Hyderabad have key Aussies in skipper David Warner and all-rounder Mitch Marsh, besides England’s Jonny Bairstow. South Africa’s Faf du Plessis and fast bowler Lungi Ngidi play for CSK.
South African cricketers could face a challenge flying into the UAE. Ten players from the country figure in IPL 13, but outbound travel is suspended due to a spike in infections. Many cricketers from the country could not enter the bio-bubble for the Caribbean Premier League due to the travel restrictions.
Logistics thus will be a big issue for franchises. The England-Australia series ends three days before IPL starts. The Caribbean Premier League ends on Sept 10 and the Sri Lanka’s franchise league on Sept 20.
Sunday’s meeting is also expected to take a stand on Chinese sponsorships in IPL, following the border tension. Vivo is the title sponsor.