As expected given the rapid developments of the past few days, confirmation that IPL 2021 will resume in September in the UAE came on Saturday (May 29) in the form of a typically staccato press release from the BCCI.
The BCCI, tournament organisers of the IPL, had confirmed the UAE as the alternative venue should India’s terrible COVID-19 crisis mean the event had to be moved. It should not have been a surprise to anyone from that day onwards that if the IPL were to resume this year, it would be in the UAE which, let us not forget, delivered a successful 2020 IPL edition when India was ruled out as host of the lucrative T20 league.
There was brief talk of England being a potential host, but that was ruled out by the BCCI Sourav Ganguly this month when it was announced that a secondary Indian team would travel to Sri Lanka for white-ball matches in July while the Test team is in England. A total of 31 IPL matches remain in this year’s edition of the tournament, which was indefinitely postponed earlier this month after multiple cases of COVID-19 inside the tournament’s bio-security bubble.
On Saturday, the BCCI confirmed the UAE as the host for these matches in September-October, while also requesting more time for a final decision on where to host this year’s T20 World Cup.
While this is good news for the BCCI and the IPL’s stakeholders – was there really any chance of the IPL not returning in 2021? – this development throws up several clashes and puts members of the Indian cricket team as well as several international teams in a tough spot vis a vis physical and mental fitness. The fifth and final Test match of India’s tour of England is scheduled to finish on September 14, just six days before the tentative restart of IPL 2021 and days after that the England team is set to travel to Bangladesh, followed by a tour to Pakistan in October.
For India’s Test squad, there is a two-week gap after the ICC World Test Championship final in the latter part of June. From July 8, the players will enter another bio-bubble ahead of the five Test matches against England, the last of which is due to end on September 14 in Manchester. That leaves India’s cricketers just five day to get out of England and to the UAE, undergo quarantine and then play the IPL.
This year’s Caribbean Premier League dates were announced recently, and given the number of West Indian and international cricketers as well as coaching staff set to participate in the tournament which runs from August 28 to September 19, that is a big headache for IPL franchises. Also, an October finish would run directly into the window for the T20 World Cup, which is also most likely to be held in the UAE.
While details of the IPL schedules are being worked out, what we know is that IPL 2021 will continue irrespective of whether top cricketers from England, Australia and the West Indies are available and that franchises will be allowed to seek replacements.
While fans of the IPL can celebrate the resumption of the tournament, spare a thought for those cricketers who have the WTC final, five Tests in England, the IPL and then the T20 World Cup to play in row. What is evident from the BCCI’s announcement is that recovering money, more than anything, is the priority.