The seventh edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) will be played from April 16 to June 1 in the United Arab Emirates, India and, if required, Bangladesh. Ending months of speculation surrounding the troubled Twenty20 league and its imminent clash with the general elections, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) reiterated its desire to host a significant chunk of the matches in India.
"From April 16 to April 30, at least 16 matches will be held in the United Arab Emirates," board secretary Sanjay Patel said in a statement. "For the period from May 1 to May 12, the BCCI has approached the ministry of home affairs... seeking permission to host IPL matches in cities belonging to states where the polling will have concluded. The BCCI is extremely conscious of the various complexities involved, but hopes for a favourable consideration... If it is not possible to play in India during this period, the matches will be held in Bangladesh," the communique added. "From May 13, (once polling has concluded in all states), the remaining league matches and the playoffs will be played in India. There will be no matches scheduled on May 16, the counting day. The detailed match schedule will be announced later," it concluded.
Given a choice, the BCCI will offer "not more than 20 matches" to the Gulf kingdom which has just three world-class stadiums — Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah — before staging the remaining 40 in India. However, the government could throw a spanner in the BCCI's works, thereby prompting it to stage, say, 15 matches in Bangladesh before moving the bandwagon to India after May 12.
"The idea is to host as many matches as possible in India," IPL chairman Ranjib Biswal told dna. "We sincerely hope the government accedes to our request," the Congressman said. Actually, Biswal has a point. Only three states — West Bengal (Kolkata, home of Kolkata Knight Riders), Andhra Pradesh (Hyderabad, home of Sunrisers Hyderabad) and Himachal Pradesh (Dharamsala, second home of Kings XI Punjab) — will go to polls between May 1 and May 12.
South Africa were the heavy favourites to host one leg of the league, but a number of factors went against the Rainbow Nation. Biswal refused to go into the details, but a source in the IPL governing council told this paper that most franchise officials were against going to South Africa. "The cost factor was the biggest deterrent," the source said. Also, Coca-Cola holds the 'pouring rights' at each and every venue that falls under the jurisdiction of Cricket South Africa. "That was something Pepsi, the title sponsors of the IPL, were not comfortable with," the source added. CSA president Chris Nenzani refused to make a comment.
Emirates Cricket Board chief executive David East was understandably over the moon. "I can't tell you how thrilled we are today," the Englishman said from Dubai. "We have three stadiums and I believe we will be asked to host about 20 matches. The facilities here are world-class and we will make it a grand success," he said. When you talk about cricket in the UAE, you invariably talk about betting/fixing syndicate in the desert haven. "We will do all we can to stage a clean IPL," East said. Biswal went a step ahead. "Let me tell you that the International Cricket Council (ICC) is headquartered in Dubai. The ICC anti-corruption unit will work with the BCCI's anti-corruption unit," he said.
Biswal also informed that the UAE was the preferred choice for the first leg because the pitches in Bangladesh would be worn out after constant cricket (Asia Cup and World Twenty20). It is understood that Dubai will be the main base of all teams. After all, it is just a 30-minute drive from Sharjah and less than two hours from Abu Dhabi, the capital. The organisers will save a lot by depending solely on the excellent roadways in the kingdom. That said, the UAE is known for its high level of productivity and it is not uncommon to see empty stadiums even when a 'homeless' Pakistan play Australia, South Africa or even Sri Lanka. "That's a concern," East said, adding, "But we will do all we can and formulate a plan with the BCCI. We want packed stadiums.
The weather in April will be perfect for cricket." Matches in the UAE, which follows the GMT+4 time zone, will be played at 2:30 pm and 6:30 pm local time. It would make sense to host 'double-headers' only on weekends (Thursday and Friday in the UAE). The BCCI is obviously banking on the large Indian diaspora do make the event a success. From being the most preferred venue for Indian cricket to a no-go zone for obvious reasons, the UAE has come a full circle. The IPL will now seek to renew old ties.
IN A NUTSHELL
The seventh edition of the IPL will be played from April 16 to June 1 over two or three legs
* First Leg: April 16-30 (15 days) in the UAE
* Second Leg: May 1-12 (12 days) in India (government-permitting) or Bangladesh
* Third Leg: May 13-June 1 (20 days)
* The Gulf kingdom may host 16-20 matches
* Bangladesh may get 12-15 matches
* The rest (25-30 matches) will be staged in India after May 12
* No matches on May 16 (counting day)
* Only three states — West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh — will be busy with polls between May 1 and 12. In other words, only Kolkata, Hyderabad and Dharamsala will be unable to host IPL matches in this period. All the other usual venues — Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangalore, Jaipur, Chandigarh, Chennai — and smaller ones like Ranchi and Raipur will be unaffected