Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni practise for Chennai Super Kings
Suresh Raina goes for a lofted shot as Mahendra Singh Dhoni look on during a practice session of Chennai Super Kings earlier this year in Chennai. The management called off the camp after the IPL was indefinitely postponed. Image Credit: Twitter

Dubai: Suresh Raina, the vice-captain of Chennai Super Kings and a sworn loyalist of the yellow brigade, feels that one of biggest plus points of having the Indian Premier League (IPL) in the UAE is the absence of the logistics of air travel throughout the tournament. ‘‘As a player, we need to look after our own body and I can speak from experience that it helps the cricketers stay fresh for the next game,’’ he said.

The IPL 2020, which was plunged into uncertainty earlier this year with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in India, is now all set to be held in the UAE. While the Governing Council of the league is expected to meet after the weekend only after they receive a clearance from the Indian government to stage the tournament overseas, the IPL chairman Brijesh Patel confirmed on Friday that they have zeroed in on a 51-day window from September 19 to November 8 for the event.

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Speaking to Gulf News from India, Raina - the second highest scorer in the history of IPL (5368 runs) after Virat Kohli - said he was looking forward to playing in the UAE again. ‘‘We have very good memories of playing there for about three weeks in 2014, while I have also played some international matches there before. We don’t have a logistic problem there and hence the players will get a lot of time for recovery,’’ said Raina.

A clinching factor for the UAE to emerge as a frontrunner as an alternative venue for the IPL had been the location of the three venues - Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah - each of which can be accessed by road travel. This is in sharp contrast to India, where the eight teams are forced to crisscross the country with air travel to meet the hectic schedule of the league.

‘‘I remember the stadia and the hospitality there. The backing of the rulers there to stage the first leg in 2014 had been great and I expect it to be no different this time. I am also a big fan of the local cuisine there,’’ said Raina, who has the record of highest number of IPL appearances with 193 matches. The upcoming edition will be his 11th one for CSK, keeping aside the two seasons he turned out for Gujarat Lions when Chennai served a two-year ban.

The protracted lockdown for the pandemic meant that the Indian players could be the most rusty with nearly no cricketing action over the last four months and the IPL, in a ‘first,’ will actually be kick-starting the Indian season and is likely to be followed by a truncated domestic calendar. Asked how long would the players need to be match-ready, Raina confirmed that CSK plan to hit their strides a month before the start of the tournament. ‘‘Let me tell you we are coming there a month ahead of the tournament - it should give us enough time to get used to the pitches and conditions. We will get used to the air of UAE by the time the tournament starts,’’ he added.


Meanwhile, ‘Inside Story: A Season with Rajasthan Royals,’ a dcoumentary which covered the journey of the franchise through the 2019 season of IPL, was released as a build-up to the new season.

Produced by Red Bull Media House, the three-part documentary series will available exclusively on Jio TV, Jio Cinemas and Jio Tv+, includes interviews and never-before-seen footage from the Royals camp. Featuring stars like skipper Steve Smith, Ben Stokes, Sanju Samson, Riyan Parag, the documentary brings fans the journey of the season that wasn’t one of the best for the team.

Speaking on the release of the documentary series, Rajasthan Royals’ COO Jake Lush McCrum said, “We are delighted to launch this documentary to entertain both Royals fans and sports lovers around the world during this challenging time. We hope this will increase the excitement and anticipation of the 800 million IPL fans.”