Competitive leagues, in most sports, have involved “home” and “away” matches for teams. There is a general notion that teams have an advantage on home surfaces (batsmen who do well at home are typically referred to as “home track bullies”).
It is not very different in several other sports as well. For example, if the teams are tied on goals in the knock-out phase of the Champions League (to most connoisseurs, the grandest and toughest football tournament) the team that has scored more away goals is considered the winner.
Clearly, the concept of a “home advantage” is relevant; or, at least, there exists a notion that suggests so.
Unfortunately, the Indian Premier League (IPL) doesn’t think on those lines: the organisers clearly feel that home advantage is irrelevant.
Let us, for example, consider how the tournament had started. The first few matches were played in United Arab Emirates (UAE), which included “home” and “away” matches for the teams. For example, the tournament opener between Mumbai Indians (MI) and Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) at Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi was considered the home ground of the former.
Does that make any kind of sense?
One can argue that the matches had to be hosted in UAE (or some other country) for logistic issues. The reason is perfectly valid, unless we consider some numbers. There have been 20 matches in UAE; all teams have played five matches each; KKR, Rajasthan Royals (RR), Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH), and Chennai Super Kings (CSK) have played three home matches each compared to the two by the others. This means that KKR, RR, SRH, and CSK will get to play four matches each at their “real” home grounds, while the others will get five.
The problem does not end there. Once back in India, KKR, SRH, MI, Delhi Daredevils (DD), and Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) will play all their remaining home matches in their respective cities (Kolkata, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Delhi, and Bangalore respectively).
The other teams have a problem, though: CSK play two of their remaining four “home” matches in Chennai, while they will have to play the remaining two “home” matches at Ranchi (including their clash against KKR, which is closer to Ranchi than Chennai). One might argue that MS Dhoni, arguably the greatest icon in the history of the city, may have his share of fans at Ranchi, but the same does not hold for Kings XI Punjab (KXIP).
KXIP play three matches at Mohali, but the remaining two are scheduled at Cuttack. Once again one of these involves KKR, and unlike Dhoni in Ranchi, there is no reason for the locals to support KXIP over KKR, given the significant proportion of Bengalis in the twin cities of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack.
Fortunately for CSK and KXIP, they do get to play some matches at home, which is a privilege RR will be deprived of. RR is scheduled to “host” their remaining home matches at Ahmedabad, which would mean that Jaipur will not be a part of the IPL at all. It may or may not have to do with the fact that a certain Lalit Modi’s association with Rajasthan Cricket Association (of course, one cannot tell for sure).
This is, of course, not as bizarre as Deccan Chargers (DC) playing their “home” match against MI at Dr DY Patil Sports Academy in Mumbai in the 2010 version of IPL. One can wonder how the DC players would have felt while playing their “home” match against Mumbai in Mumbai.
Some things defy logic. But then, we are talking a “league” that involves playoffs at the end, so we might as well give up finding logic.