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Coronavirus had stalled everything, before the world started adjusting to the ‘new normal’. Slowly and steadily, sport is also trying to gain its foot back, minus the audience. Be it football or cricket, all games are being played within bio-secure bubbles, exiting which is drawing flak from the sports fraternity worldwide.

The pandemic also came in way of one of the most popular tournaments, the thirteenth edition of the Indian Premier League. A two-month long celebration of the game of cricket, where biggest names rub shoulders with each other, was postponed indefinitely. Although cricket has come back with England and West Indies fighting it out for the Wisden Trophy, hosting a tournament like IPL in India remained a challenge, owing to the increasing number of cases across the country.

Another dilemma that stood here was the future of the T20 World Cup, to be hosted in Australia from October 18- November 15. Even if the IPL was scheduled later in the year, it would have clashed with the WC. Also, owing to the pandemic situation, cricketers would have been required to reach Australia before a considerable time to ensure their safety.

But with the decision of postponing the world tournament to next year that was taken by the International Cricket Council, the slot has been left open for the IPL to take place. Not in the country of its origin, but in the United Arab Emirates, owing to the lesser number of cases there. This was confirmed by IPL governing council chairman Brijesh Patel on July 21. “The IPL GC will meet within a week or 10 days and all decisions will be taken there,” said Patel to PTI (It will be a full-fledged IPL most likely in the UAE: Brijesh Patel- Times of India, 2020). The BCCI has requested the Indian government for an approval on this matter.

A few changes are also to be made to the IPL schedule. An early start to the evening matches; at 7:30 pm IST and advancing the whole schedule by a week are on the cards. BCCI is convinced that starting the tournament on September 19 is possible, if Star Sports, the broadcaster, also agrees.

Another factor that is being taken into consideration for IPL is virtual commentary. Star Sports experimented with the idea during the 3TC match in South Africa on July 19. “It was an extraordinary experience though we were worried throughout because the internet speed can fluctuate and that affects the voice quality,” said Irfan Pathan to PTI (After sound check from South Africa, commentary from home likely in IPL- Times of India, 2020). Pathan, Deep Dasgupta and Sanjay Manjrekar were commentating from their respective homes. There was no option other than this.

“Remote production has evolved a lot and technology has enabled it to be at par with onsite production, if not better,” said a broadcaster industry expert, to PTI.  

Photo Courtesy: Times News Network

Most cricketers would be looking forward to the beginning of IPL, owing to the quality of the games that are played in the tournament, and also breaking out of the long hiatus from the game that they find themselves in. Although losing out on a WC doesn’t sound too good, but if two World Cups are played in two consecutive years, the loss won’t be much.

Saurabh Tiwari, a Mumbai Indians player, said, “I will go by the decision taken by BCCI in connection with IPL matches.” (Chatterjee, D., 2020. I Support Any BCCI Decision On IPL: Saurabh Tiwari- Times Of India. [online] The Times of India.) He is currently training in Mumbai and had to undergo two week quarantine after reaching the city from Jamshedpur, his hometown.

“Considering what it actually looks like where it is and all the details that come with it, to play in the IPL is always an amazing thing so, absolutely, it will be great to play in it and be a part of it. But there are a lot of details to come through before any final decisions will be made,” Kane Williamson, New Zealand captain, told ESPNCricinfo (Would be exciting to play IPL this year, but waiting for more clarity: Kane Williamson- Times of India, 2020)

Glenn Maxwell was quoted by Fox Sports, saying, “ You wait and see with the IPL, waiting on the judgements of other people, what you can and can’t do with travel and quarantine times and all that, if everything gets ticked off there, I have no real reason not to go.” (‘Similar to a World Cup’- Glenn Maxwell says he has no reason to miss IPL 2020 if tournament goes ahead, 2020)

The Emirates Cricket Board on July 22 confirmed that they are waiting for an official confirmation from the BCCI to host the IPL.

But the entire decision-making process has also drawn some serious criticism. Former Pakistan cricketer Shoaib Akhtar said, “T20 WC could have been played but me and Rashid (former Pakistan cricketer Rashid Latif) have said this repeatedly that they won’t let it happen, it won’t happen. IPL shouldn’t get damaged; the T20 WC can go to hell. India needs to save cricket otherwise it won’t affect my era.” (TN Sports Desk, 2020)

It remains to be seen how the BCCI manages to host the IPL at a foreign locale, in an entirely new situation. Ultimately, it all will boil down to the quality of cricket that will be played and the entertainment factor that the tournament has always brought about with it. A lot of things: government permission, interests of stakeholders, and most importantly, the health of each and everyone involved in the game would need to be taken care of, and BCCI would need to handle the situation very carefully.

Cover Credits: InsideSport