Dubai: The countdown to the IPL 2020 picked up in right earnest with Indian cricket board supremo Sourav Ganguly flying into Dubai on Wednesday, while it is learnt that seven of the franchises will pool together to charter a flight from Manchester to the UAE to fly the 22 players of England and Australia directly from Manchester to Dubai on September 17-18 soon after the completion of their white ball series on September 16.
Except Mumbai Indians, all the franchises who have cricketers from these two countries have decided to join hands to hire a chartered flight with the thought that the players can then be transported from the bio-bubble in England to the bio-secure environment in the UAE. Confirming the move, Ranjit Barthakur, chairman of Rajasthan Royals, told Gulf News: ‘‘Yes, we are bringing the players as we are leaving no stones unturned to ensure that the IPL is not devoid of it’s biggest star value.’’
The players include Steve Smith, Jos Buttler and Jofra Archer (Rajasthan Royals), David Warner, Jonny Bairstow (Sunrisers Hyderabad), Pat Cummins, Eoin Morgan (Kolkata Knight Riders) and Aaron Finch (Royal Challengers Bangalore). There is a big question mark hanging over the participation of Ben Stokes, the match-winning England allrounder of Rajasthan Royals, as his father has been diagnosed with brain cancer in New Zealand.
Asked about Stokes’ availability, Barthakur said: ‘‘We have not asked him about it and let him take a call on the subject. It has to be also seen if he will be in the right mental space to perform.’’
Interestingly, there has been no clarity so far if the overseas players ferried this way will be exempted from the six-day quarantine, compulsory for any visitor to the UAE.
Meanwhile, Ganguly, a former Indian captain and president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), alongwith secretary Jay Shah flew into Dubai on Wednesday afternoon to get a lowdown on the preparations for the IPL beginning here on September 19.
Ganguly and Shah checked into the same hotel and began their six-day quarantine. “My first flight in 6 months to dubai for IPL.crazy life changes,” Ganguly posted on his Instagram handle with a picture in which he is wearing a mask and face shield, part of the Standard Operating Procedure while flying amid the pandemic.
IPL chairman Brijesh Patel, CEO Hemang Amin are among the other key officials who have been camping in Dubai since the last week of August, trouble-shooting on several fronts so that the tournament can start on schedule. It was on September 6 that they released the full fixtures without cutting any corners - with matches scheduled in all three venues of Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi.
Fans will not be allowed inside stadiums when the league starts but some crowd might be approved in the later stages of the tournament after a review of the COVID-19 situation.