The seventh edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) will kick-off far away from home due to the upcoming general elections in India.
The cricket Board announced on Wednesday that the initial matches in the 47-day tournament will be staged in the United Arab Emirates from April 16 to 30.
The tournament, stretching from April 16 to June 1, thus will not go to South Africa as the IPL officials look to bring it back to India at the earliest to appease sponsors and ensure gate receipts. The polls end on May 12, and counting takes place four days later, but the Board is trying to somehow get security clearance to bring the rest of the tournament home.
After facing all kinds of problems for rushing to South Africa during the 2009 elections, the BCCI is treading cautiously this time. It is seeking security clearance to hold matches in cities that have completed the poll process. Otherwise, the IPL will travel to Bangladesh (May 1-12) and then to India.
At least 16 matches will be played in the UAE — Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Dubai are likely to be the venues — although the IPL, under the spot-fixing cloud, will face fresh questions due to the reputation of the Gulf venues as a betting hub patronised by the underworld.
However, this image has changed since the International Cricket Council (ICC) moved its headquarters to Dubai and Test cricket reached the region.
Pakistan play their ‘home’ matches in the Gulf region and the ICC U-19 World Cup was recently held in Dubai.
The BCCI’s anti-corruption officials and the ICC have vowed to shield the event from the kind of spot-fixing and betting controversies that enveloped the IPL last year.