Kolkata: The availability of some of the top overseas players from England, Australia and even the West Indies are in serious doubt for the remaining part of Indian Premier League 2021, which the Indian cricket board wants to host in the UAE tentatively from September 18-19 this year.
While Ashley Giles, Director of Cricket of England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB), have ruled out releasing the likes of Eoin Morgan, Jonny Bairstow or Jos Buttler in view of the hectic international calendar which follows immediately after the IPL window in October, it’s also doubtful if Cricket Australia will play ball. The Australian media reported on Sunday that pace ace Pat Cummins, a prize recruit of Kolkata Knight Riders and their potential skipper next season, has already decided to skip the rest of the tournament in order to keep himself fresh for the T20 World Cup soon after and the Ashes series.
A desperate Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), which pays out the respective boards substantially to obtain release of their marquee players, are in talks with them - while they have also requested West Indies to explore the possibilities of bringing forward the dates of Caribbean Premier League (CPL), which is supposed to end on September 19 as per current schedule. The likes of Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard and Andrew Russell had been the movers and shakers of IPL over the years, and it’s difficult to see the league going ahead without them.
A senior BCCI official, however, told Gulf News that they are mentally prepared to go ahead with the league without several top overseas stars if required. ‘‘It’s a commitment for us to be able to complete the league, as there will be a financial loss to the tune of Rs 2500 crores (Dh one billion approximately) if we cannot deliver it. At this point, we are in talks with various boards to convince them but in case the players are not released, we will have to go ahead without some of these foreign players,’’ remarked Rajiv Shukla, a vice-president of the BCCI and former chairman of the IPL himself.
Known for his trouble-shooting skills, Shukla is already in Dubai while the trio of president Sourav Ganguly, secretary Jay Shah and IPL chairman Brijesh Patel are expected to arrive on Monday for talks with the top brass of Emirates Cricket Board (ECB). Ganguly and Shah will both attend the crucial meeting of International Cricket Council (ICC) on Tuesday, where the fate of T20 World Cup tops the agenda.
Speaking exclusively over phone, Shukla said the decision to host the 31 matches in the UAE was the easier part of the task. ‘‘Our first priority will always be to host the IPL in India. However, in the event of the suspension due to the COVID-19 cases among teams, we did not hesitate to make the UAE our preferred choice as we have now hosted two editions there in 2014 (first leg) and then last year without any complaints,’’ Shukla said.
What happens to the World T20 then in October-November? Shukla was candid enough to admit that the T20 World Cup may also come to the UAE. ‘‘We will seek a month’s time from the ICC to wait and watch the pandemic situation, which is showing signs of slowing down. However, if the situation does not improve to ICC’s satisfaction, then the event will come to the UAE,’’ Shukla added.