Mumbai Indians-Chennai Super Kings opener confirmed as IPL 2020 schedule released
IPL 2020: Teams of Rohit Sharma and Dhoni will kick-off delayed league; double-headers will be played only after October 3 due to the UAE midday heatUpdated: Sep 06, 2020, 21:03 IST
Rohit Sharma had made it public on August 16, inviting MS Dhoni for the first toss of IPL 13 on September 19. The Indian cricket board (BCCI) finally declared on Sunday that it will be defending champions Mumbai Indians versus last year’s finalists Chennai Super Kings in the tournament opener at Abu Dhabi.
For the first time, IPL will be played in an extended 53-day window across three Emirati venues. Dubai will stage 24 league games, Abu Dhabi 20, and 12 matches will be played at Sharjah. The venues for the playoff matches, including the final, will be announced later. (Full schedule of IPL 2020)
“Everybody in India is looking forward to some cricket. For so many months there has been no cricket. And we want to make it a great IPL,” said BCCI treasurer Arun Dhumal after the schedule was released on Sunday. “There will be challenges for sure. But we are quite confident and doing our best to make it a successful event.”
The delay in announcing the schedule was largely due to the Covid-19 positive cases in the CSK camp. “We had to wait and see if there would be no more cases till the estimated incubation period of the virus,” said a BCCI source. The other issue of stricter quarantine protocols in Abu Dhabi has been resolved. That is why despite speculation that a cluster of matches will be held there, there will be a lot of travel between the three Emirates for teams.
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Rajasthan Royals and Kolkata Knight Riders begin their campaign on September 22 and 23 respectively, which will minimise the absence of their England-Australia cricketers, who are likely to miss the first week of IPL after their white-ball series.
The number of double-headers has been reduced to 10 and there will be none in the first two weeks of competition because of the extreme heat in the UAE. After October 3, each weekend will have double-headers with the afternoon match starting at 2pm local time (3.30 IST). The evening matches will begin at 6pm local time (7.30 IST). Heat will still remain a factor, as day temperature is forecast to be close to 40 degrees Celsius before it gradually dips to the mid-30s later in the month.
The last time IPL was moved to the UAE in 2014, only the first 20 matches were held there. This time a total of 60 matches will be held across three venues, which could test the pitches. “With all the matches being played in three venues, unlike India the wickets could be similar. The pitches may get slower later in the tournament,” SRH seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar said. To avoid using the same wicket for two matches, the double-headers will be played at different venues.
That two CSK players Deepak Chahar and Ruturaj Gaikwad, 11 other personnel and a BCCI medical staff member are recovering from Covid -19 is a reminder the virus threat could pop up at any stage. There has been some surge in cases in the UAE with 513 people testing positive in the 24 hours ahead of Sunday, pushing the total confirmed infections in the country to 73,984.
“We have taken all possible precautions and engaged the best of experts on the subject to make it a safe IPL. We are hoping it will work. Covid-19 is a new phenomenon for all of us and there will be some challenges. We are up for it,” said Dhumal.
BCCI president Sourav Ganguly with other office-bearers will be travelling to the UAE soon, but will only stay there till the start of competition. “They will stay at a separate hotel without disturbing the bio-bubble, return home and come again later,” the BCCI source said.
Ganguly had spoken about the possibility of allowing limited crowds in the latter half of IPL, but that decision will be dictated by the health situation in the UAE.