When the first ball of the Indian Premier League 2020 is bowled on Saturday between the Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings in Abu Dhabi, it will be a milestone moment that many thought wouldn’t be possible this year.
After all, the coronavirus pandemic has ravaged countries and economies around the world — so live sport is understandably a risky venture to resume for nations like India with surging cases of the virus.
But the human spirit doesn’t like to be cowed down. It fights to prevail over crisis and catastrophe — even if they are as challenging as the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s this spirit that the UAE has embodied from the beginning of the pandemic — by not only curbing the spread of the virus, but also focusing on successful endeavours that give humanity hope and peace. Whether it’s sending the Hope Probe on its way to Mars, a landmark treaty with Israel, the quest to develop a coronavirus vaccine or rushing Covid-19 test kits to nations around the world, the UAE has infused positive energy into lives of millions of people globally amid the gloom of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Successfully hosting the IPL in the UAE will widen that horizon to include millions of cricket-starved fans around the world — as well as countless others from the sporting fraternity and hospitality, health care, tourism and related industries, for whom the tournament has unlocked enormous economic opportunities.
With the thumping success of UFC Fight Island, the UAE earlier demonstrated its ability to organise international sport events and effectively manage the bio-bubbles that are so crucial to hosting them during the pandemic. While the IPL represents a much more logistically challenging environment, it’s clear that the UAE has gone all out to ensure its safety and security, working in close cooperation with all stakeholders such as health care authorities, hospitality partners and the Indian and UAE cricket boards.
The next two months will certainly not be without the odd hiccups. But like in the case of some IPL players who tested positive for the virus and were swiftly replaced, the organisers remain dynamic and flexible while hosting the most unique tournament in the history of Twenty20 cricket. This will be the key to its successful completion, along with full compliance of the stringent Covid-19 protocols in place by every stakeholder.
The IPL is thus more than an ambassador of sport this year — it will instill great confidence in the UAE ahead of the winter tourism season as a globally safe option for leisure travel, sporting events, corporate meetings and exhibitions. When the last ball of the IPL is bowled in Dubai on November 8, irrespective of which team wins, the UAE would be the real winner.