Dubai: The Indian Premier League (IPL) certainly has a knack of getting things done their way. From being a doubtful starter even two months back, the 13th edition of the league has officially announced it’s ‘arrival’ on Sunday with a fixture of the 56 league matches - and matches being scheduled at all the three venues of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah from the start.
The first match, a customary one between last year’s winners and runners-up Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings, respectively, will now kick off the tournament on September 19 (Saturday) at the Shaikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. After the tournament-opener in the capital city, Dubai will host its first game the next day when Delhi Capitals take on Kings XI Punjab followed by the third match on Monday between Sunrisers Hyderabad and Royal Challengers Bangalore.
The action will then shift to Sharjah on September 22 when Rajasthan Royals will host Chennai Super Kings.
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There will be 10 double headers, with the first match starting at 2 pm (3.30pm IST) and the second one from 6 pm (7:30pm). Out of 56 league games announced so far, 24 matches will be held in Dubai, 20 in Abu Dhabi and 12 in Sharjah. Venues for the playoffs and the IPL 2020 final will be announced later. The final is slated for November 10.
The first match was plunged into some uncertainty following the reported positive cases of COVID-19 among two players of the Chennai team as well as members among the officials and support staff. However, the decks were cleared as soon as the IPL received the green signal from the yellow shirts’ camp and Mahendra Singh Dhoni & Co got down to business from Friday with the exception of the two cricketers.
Ever since the IPL chairman Brijesh Patel and COO Hemang Amin checked into their Dubai hotel about two weeks back, alongwith top officials of their event managers International Marketing Group (IMG), they were engaged in some frenetic activity - working the phones with the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) officials to get the necessary clearances from the three emirates involved in hosting of the event, rushing to the UAE capital back and forth etc.
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The job, as the cliche goes, will be well begun once the tournament opener gets off on schedule in less than two weeks from now, but the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had their toughest test in coming this far - and it would have been impossible without the helping hands of the Indian and UAE governments, respectively. During an interview with Gulf News recently, Ranjit Barthakur, chairman of Rajasthan Royals put the effort in perspective: ‘‘It’s been very courageous on part of India, BCCI and the UAE - who are calling it an opportunity rather than a risk. Our compliments to all three parties because it brings positivity.’’
Right from postponing the tournament, scheduled to be held from March 29 to May 24, due to the coronavirus outbreak in India - it had been an ordeal of sorts. As the number of cases increased, the league was indefinitely postponed but the postponement of the T20 World Cup cleared the decks for the league to take place in the September-November window. It became increasingly clear that the tournament, which needed at least a seven-week window for a successful completion, had to be shifted overseas and UAE - which had the experience of hosting it in 2014 - became an automatic choice.
From the pandemic raging in the country, absence of regular international flights to the title-sponsors’ pullout only in August, the IPL had it’s hands full but managed to wriggle out of it just in time.
Let the countdown to the matches now begin...