IPL-Delhi Capitals
The new IPL season, barely four months after the last one concluded in Dubai in November, 2020, kicks off in India on April 9. The shadows of a second wave of COVID-19, however, loom large as it's scheduled to be played across six cities. Image Credit: IPL

Kolkata: There are at least six T20 franchise leagues across major cricket playing nations in the world, actually seven if ones includes ‘The Hundred’ in England as one of their clones. And then there is the IPL.

The Big Bash of Australia had been there from before IPL, the Pakistan Super League has carved a huge niche for themselves in barely five years, Caribbean Premier League, Lanka Premier League, Bangladesh Premier league and South Africa’s Manzi League are the major players. In England, which had the T20 blast based on County loyalties, the franchise based ‘Hundred’ is scheduled for a July launch and it’s a reality that a number of IPL teams are actually eyeing stakes there.

What is it then that makes the IPL, set to kick off on April 9, arguably the biggest of them all? ‘‘We have to accept the fact that the IPL is the biggest T20 league of the world, but PSL is certainly the second biggest,’’ remarked Salman Iqbal, the owner of Karachi Kings, regining PSL champions during a chat with Gulf News recently.


Making his point, Iqbal, a media moghul in Pakistan pointed out that unlike IPL or PSL where the teams are privately owned, the Big Bash is a product of Cricket Australia. The concept of corporations and individuals owning a team was heard of in the US sports leagues and in European football leagues, but nothing of the sort was known of in cricket till IPL came along. They also brought about a new concept like player auction, tags like icon players etc (thanks to the brainwave of IPL’s prodigal chairman Lalit Modi).

There was a limit to the number of overseas players that could be part of the playing XI at four. While most leagues have imbibed the same concept now, IPL has to be regarded as the ‘original.’

The ‘richest’ tag

There is no question that the IPL is the richest league in terms of the money the league and it’s players make. A conservative estimate says that there are at least 25 players who earn more than a million US dollars per year and 67 players who earn more than half a million dollars. Now contrast this with the salary cap for each team in the 2018-19 BBL season at 1.77 million Australian dollars, to be divided among the entire squad. The highest paid cricketers in the PSL earn around US $ 550,000 limited to three per side.

The sponsorship money is astronomical as well - Vivo, who are making a comeback as title sponsors again after a year’s gap, had paid Rs 2199 crs ($ 315 million US) for a five-year deal. The telecast rights, which rest with the Star Sports, similarly fetch the BCCI Rs. 16,347 crs ($ 2.3 billion approzimately) over five years.

This brings us to the question of brand value of IPL. The latest report of Duff & Phelps, a globally known brand valuation agency, says it dipped by 3.6% in the pandemic year but still stays robust at around US $ 6.3 billion.

20201019 Jos Buttler
The April-May window for IPL allows top professionals like Jos Buttler of England to play almost for the entire length of the league. Image Credit: BCCI

The Window

The reason some of the other leagues are not able to field all of the best International stars or also the best cricketers from their own country is because they are simply not available to play. When the PSL, CPL or BBL takes place, it usually clashes with the international cricketing calendar. November – January (period of the BBL) is peak summer in the southern hemisphere so there is a lot of international cricket being played in South Africa , Australia and New Zealand at that time.

Its also the winter in the sub-continent at the time - so teams do end up touring India/Pakistan/Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The February – March period of the PSL also clashes with the international calendar for the above reasons. The CPL clashes with the English summer and thus players from England and teams touring there miss out,

The IPL, on the other hand, is usually held during the Indian summer when not much international cricket takes place on the sub-continent. The months of April-May were initially chosen when it’s winter in the southern hemisphere and hence it’s not a cricket season there. Not much cricket (bi-lateral series at least) is played in England also till mid-May, thus even allowing for England players to participate. Most players from around the world (leaving aside Pakistan players) are hence free to participate in the tournament.

There used to be clashes with international cricket in the early years of the IPL but as it grew in size, market and importance, even the ICC took cognizance of this - and now there is an unwritten window in the ICC calendar for international cricket to accommodate the IPL - leading to majority of the players to be involved for virtually the full tournament.

Mumbai Indians squad celebrates with the trophy of Indian Premier League (IPL) 2020
The 'Invincibles' of IPL?: Mumbai Indians squad celebrates after winning their fifth IPL crown in Dubai in 2020. Image Credit: BCCI

Mumbai Indians are the team to beat this year too

Shyam A. Krishna, Senior Associate Editor

Dubai: Another IPL is upon us. That’s Season 14 of the Indian Premier League. The new edition of the Twenty20 contest with eight teams comes around only four months after the previous one. That’s because Season 13 was delayed by COVID-19 that battered the world. Bio bubbles allowed it to be staged in empty stadiums in the UAE. At least, the event wasn’t postponed like the Tokyo Olympics and the Euro football.

Season 13 will be remembered for the dominance of the Mumbai Indians, who stretched their title wins to five. And it also witnessed the fall of the Chennai Super Kings, who previously had qualified for the knockout stage in every IPL they competed.

So, what does IPL 14 hold for us? Now that the tournament is back in India, there will be changes in tactics due to factors like the pitch, weather and conditions. It will reflect in the performances too. We may see lots of high-scoring matches, and spinners, especially the leggies, may play a more decisive role in deciding the results.

None of this is likely to affect the Mumbai Indians. Barring a few blips, they had been winning matches with ease. Their bench strength too is the envy of their rivals. The Delhi Daredevils can match them in talent, but the absence of the inspiring leadership and the steady batting of Shreyas Iyer will be sorely felt.

Chennai may have come a cropper in the UAE. But don’t write them off yet. After all, Mahendra Singh Dhoni is still at the helm. Shane Watson has retired and Chennai haven’t made any major buys at the auction, but they have a team that could do well in India. Especially with the return of Suresh Raina.

The renamed Punjab Kings, the Sunrisers Hyderabad and the Rajasthan Royals have had their moments, but they don’t seem to have the depth to make a sustained challenge. The Royal Challengers Bangalore and the Kolkata Knight Riders have lacked in consistency. If they can win the crunch games, it will make IPL 14 more competitive. Who wouldn’t love that? It can only mean lots of thrillers. That’s in the DNA of T20 games. It’s what brings in the crowds. But not this time.

The stadiums will be empty as the coronavirus threat still lingers. So, the supporters will be cheering their teams from the safety of their living rooms. That will lead to another spike in television viewership. At least, we can enjoy the games in these difficult times.

May the best team win.

Familiar sight: Riyan Parag, the young Rajasthan Royals allrounder, is well-guarded against the COVID-19 pandemic. Image Credit: Supplied photo

COVID-19 second wave a reality: How is BCCI coping with it?

By Gautam Bhattacharyya, Senior Associate Editor

Kolkata: Altogether 60 matches spread over six venues across India: Chennai, Mumbai, Bengaluru, New Delhi, Kolkata and Ahmedabad over 51 days from April 9 to May 30.

The challenge before the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is a much tougher one than last year in the UAE, given the dynamics of a bigger country like India - and alarm bells have been already raised after reports of nearly 20 cases breaking from Mumbai on Saturday. This included Axar Patel, left arm spinner of Delhi Capitals, 10 groundsmen of Wankhede Stadium and six members of BCCI’s IPL organising committee testing positive - prompting the IPL to announce by evening that Hyderabad has been kept has stand bye in case one leg needs to be shifted from Mumbai.

The reality is with the safety protocol that the BCCI wants all the stakeholders to adhere to, it’s now too late to move the matches out of Mumbai. There is no guarantee that with the number of cases also on the rise in Telengana, it’s going to be an absolutely smooth running there. During the last edition in the UAE, as many as 13 cases were reported from the Chennai Super Kings camp alone - including two players - but there was no panic reaction from any quarters.

The Indian board, on their part, has tried to cover all bases in a 50-page Standard Operating Procedure (SoP) handed over to the eight franchises and other stakeholders of the richest T20 franchise league in the world. A total of 12 bubbles will be created in each of the venues once the IPL caravan moves there: eight for the franchise teams and their support staff, two for match officials and match management teams and two for broadcast commentators and it’s crew.

The emphasis is on health and safety protocols, though there had been no plans for vaccination of any players of officials as per the initial plan. ‘‘The vaccination programme against Covid-19 is underway in India and vaccines are currently being administered to the at-risk population viz frontline workers, healthcare professionals, people over the age of 60 years and those between the age of 45-59 years who have co-morbidities like cardiac ailments, diabetes, cancer etc,’’ the SoP said.

Cricket-IPL safety protocol
An infographic showing how any player or IPL staff, if taken to the hospital for scans or any form of treatment, will have to comply with a series of formalities before being allowed into the bubble again. Image Credit: BCCI/Gulf News

Tests twice a week

All individuals - be it the players, support staff and match officials now within a bubble - will be tested twice a week during the second week and thereafter, every fifth day for the entire duration of IPL 2021 season.

Any number of additional tests may be conducted if required under then prevalent rules in India, e.g. if required by the state governments for individuals crossing state borders or testing of individuals with COVID-19 like symptoms and their close contacts.

If players or staff are required to visit hospitals for scans or treatment during the quarantine period, approvals must be sought from the BCCI Chief Medical Officer. Team member and accompanying staff must travel in separate vehicles and wear a full PPE while visiting the hospital. Only essential staff at the hospital will attend to the team members while wearing full PPE and maintaining social distancing at all times.

Temperature monitoring and Tracking device

All participants in IPL will have to undergo daily temperature monitoring recorded either on the wrist band or on the thermal access control readers installed at specific locations within the hotels and stadiums. Individuals who have not completed temperature checks will not be granted access to the stadium and training facilities. BCCI will also provide a tracking device in the form of a wrist band with bluetooth technology which must be worn by individuals at all times, including within the hotel premises.

The tracking devices should not be worn during training, matches, swimming and in the shower. In case an individual returns a positive RT-PCR test result, the tracking device will help trace those individuals who have been in close contact with the case during the previous 48 hours from the time of collection of the sample which resulted in a positive test. The

tracking device, however, will not be used to track the GPS location of individuals.

A look at the eight teams and their squads

Mumbai Indians

Rohit Sharma

Rohit Sharma (Captain), Aditya Tare, Anmolpreet Singh, Anukul Roy, Dhawal Kulkarni, Hardik Pandya, Ishan Kishan, Jasprit Bumrah, Jayant Yadav, Kieron Pollard, Krunal Pandya, Quinton de Kock, Rahul Chahar, Suryakumar Yadav, Chris Lynn, Mohsin Khan, Saurabh Tiwary, Trent Boult, Adam Milne, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Piyush Chawla, James Neeshan, Yudhvir Charak, Marco Jansen, Arjun Tendulkar.

Delhi Capitals

Rishabh Pant

Rishabh Pant (Captain), Shreyas Iyer, Ajinkya Rahane, Amit Mishra, Avesh Khan, Axar Patel, Ishant Sharma, Kagiso Rabada, Prithvi Shaw, Ravichandran Ashwin, Shikhar Dhawan, Lalit Yadav, Marcus Stoinis, Shimron Hetmyer, Chris Woakes, Anrich Nortje, Steve Smith, Umesh Yadav, Ripal Patel, Lukman Hussain Meriwala, M Siddharth, Tom Curran, Sam Billings, Pravin Dubey, Vishnu Vinod.

Sunrisers Hyderabad

David Warner

David Warner (Captain,) Kane Williamson, Manish Pandey, Virat Singh, Priyam Garg, Abdul Samad, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Khaleel Ahmed, Sandeep Sharma, Siddharth Kaul, T Natarajan, Abhishek Sharma, Shahbaz Nadeem, Jason Roy, Vijay Shankar, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Jonny Bairstow, Wriddhiman Saha, Shreevats Goswami, Basil Thampi, Jason Holder, Jagadeesha Suchith, Kedar Yadav, Mujeeb ur Rahman.

Royal Challengers Bangalore

Virat Kohli

Virat Kohli (Captain), AB de Villiers, Yuzvendra Chahal, Devdutt Padikkal, Harshal Patel, Daniel Sams, Washington Sundar, Mohammed Siraj, Navdeep Saini, Adam Zampa, Shahbaz Ahmed, Kane Richardson, Pavan Deshpande, Glenn Maxwell, Sachin Baby, Rajat Patidar, Mohammed Azharuddeen, Kyle Jamieson, Dan Christian, Suyesh Prabhudessai, K.S. Bharat, Finn Allen.

Kolkata Knight Riders

Eoin Morgan

Eoin Morgan (Captain), Dinesh Karthik, Andre Russell, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Kuldeep Yadav, Lockie Ferguson, Nitish Rana, Prasidh Krishna, Rinku Singh, Sandeep Warrier, Shivam Mavi, Shubman Gill, Sunil Narine, Pat Cummins, Rahul Tripathi, Varun Chakravarthy, Pawan Negi, Tim Seifert, Shakib al Hasan, Sheldon Jackson, Vaibhav Arora, Karun Nair, Harbhajan Singh, Ben Cutting, Venkatesh Iyer.

Punjab Kings

KL Rahul

KL Rahul (Captain), Chris Gayle, Mayank Agarwal, Nicholas Pooran, Mandeep Singh, Sarfaraz Khan, Deepak Hooda, Prabhsimran Singh, Mohammed Shami, Chris Jordan, Darshan Nalkande, Ravi Bishnoi, Murugan Ashwin, Arshdeep Singh, Harpreet Brar, Ishan Porel, Dawid Malan, Jhye Richardson, Shahrukh Khan, Riley Meredith, Moises Henriques, Jalaj Saxena, Utkarsh Singh, Fabian Allen, Saurabh Kumar.

Chennai Super Kings


MS Dhoni (Captain), Suresh Raina, Narayan Jagadeesabn, Ruturaj Gaikwad, KM Asif, Josh Hazlewood, Karn Sharma, Ambati Rayudu, Deepak Chahar, Faf du Plessis, Shardul Thakur, Mitchell Santner, Dwayne Bravo, Lungi Ngidi, Sam Curran, Ravindra Jadeja, Imran Tahir, Robin Uthappa, Moeen Ali, K Gowtham, Cheteshwar Pujara, M.Harisankar Reddy, K.Bhagath Varma, C Hari Nishaanth, R Sai Kishore.

Rajasthan Royals

Sanju Samson

Sanju Samson (Captain), Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer, Jos Buttler, Riyan Parag, Shreyas Gopal, Rahul Tewatia, Mahipal Lomror, Kartik Tyagi, Andrew Tye, Jaydev Unadkat, Mayank Markande, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Anuj Rawat, David Miller, Manan Vohra, Shivam Dube, Chris Morris, Mustafizur Rahim, Chetan Sakariya, K.C. Cariappa, Liam Livingstone, Kuldip Yadav, Akash Singh.

Cricket-IPL schedule
Full IPL 2021 schedule Image Credit: IPL