The postponed Indian Premier League (IPL) that is scheduled to be held in the UAE will begin on September 19 and run until November 8. IPL chairman Brijesh Patel confirmed the schedule on Friday, although the Indian board is awaiting the government's green signal to take IPL out of India. "We have written to the Indian government. We are expecting a reply soon. Once it comes, an IPL Governing Council (GC) meeting will be called next week to finalise all other details."
This means, with the T20 World Cup finally postponed, BCCI has managed a 51-day window for IPL, the same as last year. It rules out extra doubleheaders than in 2019. Having two matches a day had been an issue with the broadcasters as they are not able to leverage afternoon matches like the night games. Doubleheaders are scheduled only on weekends and that is expected this year as well.
One key issue BCCI needs to address is deliberating on its earlier announcement that Chinese sponsorships in IPL will be reviewed. "We will take up the matter in the (GC) meeting," Patel said. Chinese smartphone makers 'Vivo' are IPL title sponsors and their five-year deal is worth R2,199 crore. Two other sponsors, Paytm and Dream11, too have Chinese stakeholders.
Amid border tensions with China, BCCI had tweeted on June 19: "Taking note of the border skirmish that resulted in the martyrdom of our brave jawans; the IPL Governing Council has convened a meeting next week to review IPL's various sponsorship deals."
The governing council meeting will also have to decide whether or not to retain the home-and-away format. There are three venues in UAE—Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Dubai. There are two grounds in Dubai; apart from the main stadium, the ICC academy ground where T20 internationals of associate nations have been staged, is available.
The meeting will discuss sharing of expenditure between the franchises and board. Operational expenses—travel and stay—may still be borne by the franchises with BCCI providing logistics support.
It is learnt BCCI could foot the staging fees as it did in 2009 and 2014 when the tournament went overseas. That could assuage the concerns of franchisees, who were unhappy this year when BCCI raised the fee from R30 lakh to R50 lakh per match.
Franchises through face the loss of revenue if IPL is played behind closed doors. The eight franchises made around R250 crore in gate money the last edition. BCCI does not rule out allowing limited crowds and hospitality boxes if the coronavirus situation permits. "We will seek the advice of the UAE government if we can have any crowds," Patel said.
He denied broadcasters were unsure of meeting revenue targets in prevailing market conditions. "Everyone is excited about IPL. Even the advertising agencies are looking forward to it. I am sure there will be enough people to advertise. All the stakeholders are happy," the former India batsman said.
Franchises are awaiting a formal announcement on IPL to confirm the availability of overseas players. England and Australia are scheduled to play a limited-overs series that is tentatively scheduled to end on September 15. The Caribbean Premier League, featuring the cream of West Indies cricketers, will finish on September 10. Flying these players to Dubai without hassles will be a challenge. "There could be a case of some player unwilling to travel due to health concerns. We will only know once the official announcement comes," a top franchise official said.
One thing that went in favour of the UAE as a venue is a relaxed quarantine protocol. Currently, those travelling to the UAE after getting a negative test report who again test negative on landing won't have to undergo quarantine. The other Standard Operating Procedure (SOPs) to be followed by all stakeholders will be shared by BCCI soon.
It is expected that with teams needing a month to train, the franchises will leave base by August 20, giving them exactly four weeks to prepare.
Former India spinner Harbhajan Singh, who plays for Chennai Super Kings, is happy IPL is finally due to happen. "I am looking forward to playing. IPL is the biggest T20 league in the world. Its good cricket has resumed. The England-West Indies Test series has also been good so far and brought cheers to the cricketing world.
"However, I'm also slightly concerned about how we all are going to deal with the situation. The Covid cases are low in the UAE, so it's a good thing. But we will have to be very careful, not go out to meet anyone and stay put in the given bubble. It would be new and challenging. Also, we would be going there one month prior to the tournament which means we will be staying away from our families for a long time. It's not yet clear whether families will be allowed to travel during the competition."