Dubai: The idea of keeping the biggest stars of world cricket holed up in a routine of practice-hotel-matches-practice for a period of over 80 days can be an extremely demanding, if not unrealistic one, for the franchises of Indian Premier League.
The Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for all the stakeholders of IPL, issued to the franchises a few days back, calls for water tight restrictions on the players and with this in mind - four of the teams have already opted for beachfront properties which will allow the players an option of lazing around the private beaches - offering diversion from the sanitized hotel gyms and swimming pools.
Well-placed sources in the know of things revealed to Gulf News that two of the high profile teams - champions Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders, co-owned by Bollywood icon Shah Rukh Khan, have preferred to stay in the island properties of Abu Dhabi. Two more - Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore and Sunrisers Hyderabad will be staying in sea-facing properties in Dubai while Chennai Super Kings and Delhi Capitals will be based here within the city.
The details about Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals are yet to be known. ‘‘Negotiations are on at the moment,’’ said a representative of one of these two franchises.
There has been frenzied activity in the headquarters of all the franchises since they were asked to go ahead following the IPL Governing Council meeting last Sunday (August 2) with their preparations for leaving for the UAE after August 20 to set up preparatory camps. The Indian players were hit hard due to the nearly five months of inactivity in the country due to the spiralling COVID-19 pandemic, most of them being left to fend for themselves.
Mumbai Indians have, meanwhile, started quarantining their Indian players in a hotel with regular Covid-19 tests scheduled. Players who complete their quarantine will then be allowed to train at their facility in Navi Mumbai. Royals too plan to conduct tests for their players and support staff over the next two weeks prior to their departure to Dubai. Another franchise has asked their Indian players to home quarantine - as a precaution - while simultaneously initiating the tests.
‘‘If you ask me, I will need four-five weeks to get my touch back to play someone like Kagiso Rabada (Delhi Capitals),’’ Robin Uthappa, a former senior Indian batsman who moved to Rajasthan Royals, at a webinar last month. Uthappa, incidentally, had a dream season for Kolkata Knight Riders on the last occasion the IPL was played here in 2014 when the Knights went on to become the champions.
If you ask me, I will need four-five weeks to get my touch back to play someone like Kagiso Rabada (Delhi Capitals)
A camp of that duration will be a far cry for the Indian players this time around as they will have to remain in a six-day isolation from their day of arrival in the UAE, during which they have to undergo three tests on alternate days before joining the Bio Bubble and the training sessions. This could, effectively, mean a camp of barely three weeks - which can be conducted at the ICC Academy complex in Dubai and the two Oval grounds adjacent to the Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
The Chennai team, led by their talismanic skipper M.S.Dhoni, have decided against allowing family members to accompany players to the UAE at least for the initial phase of the tournament. They have lined up their stay at a hotel near the iconic Burj Khalifa after being taken by a chartered flight from India.
“At least for the initial phase, the families won’t be travelling with the players,’’ sources in the Chennai team said.
The franchises, incidentally, have asked for a series of tweakings in the drafted SOP - right from relaxations in the quarantine period of foreign players to that of families and a decision on it will be taken soon.
The IPL 2020 is set to kickstart from September 19 with the final scheduled on November 10.