Dubai: The UAE are keeping themelves ready if the Indian Premier League 2020 is eventually held here during a tentative window between late September and November this year. The window, however, can be a realistic one only if the International Cricket Council (ICC) announces a postponement of the T20 World Cup, still officially scheduled between October 18 to November 15 in Australia.
While the ICC is yet to make any formal announcement, the Board of Directors are expected to converge in another video conference early next week to take stock of the situation and take a final call. If the World T20 is put off, a convenient slot to the satisfaction of all stakeholders has to be decided for it as India are scheduled to host the next edition of the event in 2021 itself.
It is learnt that the franchise owners met earlier this week and they had no qualms with the IPL going overseas this year in view of the COVID-19 pandemic on the verge of hitting a peak in India over the two to three months. While the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) were initially divided in their opinion about shifting the event outside the country, the recent spike in daily cases have helped them make up their minds about the veracity.
While at least three cricket boards - the UAE, Sri Lanka and New Zealand had made their offers to host the showpiece event - the BCCI has decided in favour of the UAE as they have the prior experience of hosting the first leg of event in 2014. The IPL had to be taken overseas on two occasions in 2009 and 2014, with the event coinciding on both occasions with the Parliamentary elections.
The Indian board has been in regular touch with Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) to take a lowdown on the state of readiness of the venues - Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi. Informed sources also reveal that some of the franchises have also touched base with hotels in Dubai with an aim to work out their projected costs.
IPL teams are expected to arrive in the UAE well before the tournament starts. “We need a month to prepare but our overseas players will be ready to play,” a team owner told the Indian media.
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Speaking to Gulf News, Salman Hanif, Head of Cricket & Events of Dubai Sports City (which includes the Dubai International Stadium & the ICC Academy) said they were ready to put their best foot forward if the IPL is held here and to host the Indian players if they arrive here early for practice sessions. ‘‘The stadium has nine wickets on the top in case a large number of matches have to be accommodated within a smaller time-frame. We will not be scheduling any matches there to keep the wickets fresh,’’ said Hanif.
The official, in fact, went a step forward to suggest that they were even ready to host the matches with a ‘‘limited number of spectators’’ if the government protocol allows for that after a period of two months.
The likes of Virat Kohli & Co have been affected the most as they have not been able to have any form of collective practice since the aborted one-day series in South Africa and a media report in India says an elite group of 30-35 players could be arriving here beforehand for practice sessions. ‘‘The practice facilities are never be going to be a problem as we have hosted multi-team events before. In the ICC complex alone, there are 38 wickets - spread over the two Oval grounds, the simulated turf wickets as well as the state-of-the-art indoor facilities in case they want to beat the heat,’’ Hanif added.