BCCI draw up tentative plans to keep IPL in India
- A final call is likely to be taken before next month’s mega player auction. South Africa, the UAE, and even Sri Lanka remain back-up options
The dip in the Covid curve in Mumbai has raised the hopes of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) that the upcoming edition of Indian Premier League (IPL) can be held in the country. It can be limited to 3-4 venues—in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Pune (if required)—and played behind closed doors. Ahmedabad could host the playoff matches and the final, health situation permitting.
This was a key takeaway from a virtual call BCCI had with the 10 IPL franchise owners on Saturday. The back-up plan was also discussed, which is to take the league to South Africa or the UAE should the health situation take a turn for the worse in Mumbai. As things stand, that remains Plan B.
The mega auction ahead of IPL 2022 will be held on February 12-13.
“I am delighted to confirm that the 15th season of the IPL will start in the last week of March and run until May end. A majority of the team owners expressed their wish that the tournament be held in India. The BCCI was always keen on staging it in India. We will leave no stone unturned in ensuring that IPL stays in India,” board secretary Jay Shah said in a statement. “The BCCI has not compromised on the health and safety of its stakeholders in the past and will concurrently work on Plan B since the Covid-19 situation with new variants remains fluid.”
It is believed that a final call on the venues will be taken before the mega auction. This year’s IPL will be longer, involving 74 matches following the addition of two new franchises—Lucknow and Ahmedabad.
The plan to stage IPL across four venues in the Mumbai-Pune belt was drawn up last year too. But the surge in Covid cases during the second wave put paid to that. Mumbai has three international stadiums –Wankhede and Brabourne are close to each other while DY Patil in Navi Mumbai is closer to Pune.
The Maharashtra Cricket Association stadium in Pune is the fourth possible venue. There are a host of smaller grounds in Mumbai where the teams can hold camps before the league. BCCI plans to form two bio-secure hubs, in Mumbai and Pune, with ample five-star accommodation available for the teams and officials. Such a plan would not involve any air travel, which will reduce the possibility of being exposed to Covid.
IPL officials have held discussions with Mumbai Cricket Association officials as well as Sharad Pawar—the former BCCI president is also a key figure in the running of the Maharastra government—on the state’s readiness to stage the league.
Last May, the league started in India but had to be suspended after Covid infections spread across four team bubbles. The cluster caravan model that involved travelling across six venues did not go to plan and IPL had to eventually be completed in the UAE later in the year.
UAE was one of the venues that came up for discussion after being proposed by some franchises as a back-up option. However, it is learnt that it is no longer the leading option for BCCI. An IPL official spoke of South Africa as an option in the meeting. Internally, BCCI has discussed South Africa and Sri Lanka as back-up options to win friends in International Cricket Council matters. Besides, both the countries coming under favourable broadcast time zones make them viable options. South Africa hosted the second edition of IPL in 2009 when the league clashed with the general elections.
While most franchise officials welcome keeping the league within the country, the fluidity in the pandemic situation as far as the staging nation is concerned will affect their auction planning.
“It will be difficult to pick a perfect squad without knowing the venues and nature of pitches,” said a franchise executive. “Should we go spin-heavy or pace-heavy depends on whether we play in India or South Africa.”
Another franchise official was less perturbed. “The ideal strategy is to pick your best 25 players who can do well in any conditions.”