Dubai: In a month from now, the Indian Premier League (IPL) bandwagon will roll into the UAE with the first 16 matches of its seventh edition scheduled to take place here.
The three international venues in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah will be hosting their share of matches, though a clearer picture will emerge only when the schedule is scheduled later this week.
Life had been hectic for the top brass of Emirates Cricket Board (ECB), the local organisers, who have been closeted with a visiting team of senior IPL officials for a series of key inspections and meetings to fine-tune details of staging the showpiece. Apart from the challenge of hosting a chunk of the event outside India for the first time since 2009 due to its dates clashing with the Indian general elections, the spectacle is faced with a test of goodwill as never before.
Speaking to Gulf News exclusively, Sanjay Patel, the general secretary of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), fielded questions on a range of subjects on the league — from their expectations about the crowd to the unprecedented steps taken for corruption-free games. Excerpts:
Since you have by now carried out the inspections and meetings with the local board, when can the fans expect the IPL schedule?
The logistics are being worked out at the moment. All eight teams participating in the Pepsi IPL 2014 will be playing the UAE leg of the tournament. The match schedule will be formally announced in the middle of the coming week.
Is there any possibility of the number of matches going up here or will you stick to the 16 as announced?
We will be playing 16 matches in the UAE from April 16-30 2014 as announced earlier.
In light of the current controversies plaguing the IPL, what preventive measures do you plan to put in place to check corruption in the forthcoming edition?
Preventive Vigilance is the key to ensure a corruption-free sport and therefore we have taken it upon ourselves to educate each and every participant on issues relating to corruption. We have also adopted a robust and potent Anti-Corruption Code that would deal severely with any attempts to indulge in match-fixing or any other corrupt practices relating to the IPL.
In order to reduce the influence of corruptors and match-fixers, the IPL will deploy experienced anti-corruption officers with each of the IPL teams and ensure that all corrupting influences will be kept at bay at all times, including when they are playing at stadia or staying at hotels or during transit. Dressing room protocols will be followed strictly to ensure that corruptors do not have access to participants.
Local agencies will be sensitised on identities of all known fixers and bookies. The BCCI will inform viewers, through different public forums, including media, about its fresh initiatives to protect the game from corrupt influences.
How does the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) stand to gain from playing the hosts, apart from of course the mileage? Also, have you been able to reach any consensus about possible pricing of tickets?
The IPL captured the imagination of cricket and sports-lovers, not only in India, but the world, in its very first season, in 2008. It has gone from strength to strength since. The BCCI is delighted to be associated with the Emirates Cricket Board for the first leg of the 2014 season.
The Emirates Cricket Board recently hosted the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup, which featured the best junior cricketers from across the planet. The event was a great success. You can safely expect some unforgettable cricket in April 2014. As for ticketing, discussions are presently on and announcements will be made in due course. The tickets will be reasonably priced.
One of the areas of concern about hosting matches in the UAE had been the lack of crowds on working days. What’s your assessment of the subject?
The 2014 season of the IPL will feature top cricketers from all over the world. The IPL has broken barriers in more ways than one. It has contributed to the increase in the mutual respect that cricketers feel for their counterparts, especially those from countries other than theirs.
When you share a dressing room with individuals whom you have previously opposed, you gain invaluable insights into their methods of preparation and, of course, their approach to the game itself. The IPL has provided youngsters with the opportunity to team up with the game’s legends. Cricket lovers are not interested only in the cricket, but in these dynamics as well.
Cricket lovers based in the UAE have always followed the IPL on TV and the internet since 2008. We are sure that the opportunity to witness their favourite cricketers in action in flesh and blood will prompt them to flock to the stadia.
Finally, will you be hosting the opening ceremony of IPL here as well? Can you share some of the plans about it at this stage?
We should know about this in the coming few days. Plans, if any, will be announced as soon as they are firmed up.