Indian Premier League is set to return to UAE for the second time after it hosted the first leg of 2014 edition due to the general elections being held in India that year. This time around it’s the coronavirus pandemic that has brought IPL to UAE shores.
Even though BCCI got the window to host the IPL 2020 in September-November this year in the account of T20 World Cup Postponement, having the tournament in India could have been possible because of the increasing caseload of the Covid-19 cases in India.
BCCI had no option left but to take the tournament outside of the country. Initially it was UAE and Sri Lanka which were looked at potential places to host with UAE more or less controlling the spread of the virus, while Sri Lanka was one of the least affected countries by the virus.
Why UAE for IPL 2020
UAE was zeroed down – 1. Because it has hosted the event earlier. 2. Logistically, UAE could pull off something similar or at least close to what England and Wales Cricket Board have managed by creating a bio-secure bubble for their international series against West Indies in England. The Dubai Sports City, which includes the Dubai International Stadium and the ICC Academy, is ready as a potential venue for the T20 league.
“The stadium has nine wickets on the top in case a large number of matches have to be accommodated within a smaller time-frame. We will not be scheduling any matches there to keep the wickets fresh,” Dubai Sports City’s Head of Cricket and Events Salman Hanif was quoted as saying by Gulf News.
In the ICC complex alone, there are 38 wickets – spread over the two Oval grounds, the simulated turf wickets as well as the state-of-the-art indoor facilities in case they want to beat the heat.
How UAE works out better for the organisers and the franchises:
Other major aspect that may have tilted the scales in UAE favour is their superior infrastructure and practice facilities along with flight connectivity. For franchises, UAE provides them with a much safer and much more manageable option of regrouping.
The players generally prefer to stay in Dubai since Sharjah is only a 30-minute drive from there while Abu Dhabi takes one-and-a-half hours. According to various media reports, franchises have started to set up a base for the team.
Mumbai Indians, who have a commercial partnership with the JW Marriott group, are reportedly planning to set up their base at their Dubai property. Other franchises are also planning similar hubs there, reports the Telegraph.
Cricket Stadiums in UAE
While there is still no confirmation about the venues, and the same can be expected after IPL Governing Council Meeting set for July 24, broadly speaking UAE has two Test venues and three other grounds that have hosted List A and T20 games.
Dubai has the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi has Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium and in Sharjah, there is Sharjah Cricket Association Stadium. Dubai also has the ICC Cricket Academy Ground No. 1 and two Dubai Cricket Council Grounds.
Dubai International Cricket Stadium and Sharjah Cricket Association Stadium are test venues, while ICC Cricket Academy has hosted ODIs and T20Is. The Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium stadium complex also features a pair of smaller grounds called Nursery 1 (also known as Tolerance Oval) and Nursery 2.
Tolerance Oval was used for a Twenty20 International between the United Arab Emirates and Australia in October 2018.
Fans could be Allowed
UAE is also looking at allowing fans to he stadiums as well considering the UAE have the Covid-19 situation in controls in the Emirates. The UAE has recorded more than 50,000 cases and over 300 deaths. India’s case count, on the other hand, has crossed the 10 lakh mark, including over 25,000 deaths.
“Having spectators in stadiums is subject to government approval. We will have a detailed discussion before deciding anything. There’s still time and we might consider it if the IPL is cleared to be held here,” Mubashir Usmani, general manager of Emirates Cricket Board (ECB), told The Telegraph from Dubai on Friday.
What happened in the 2014 Edition
In 2014 the first 20 matches of the league were played in the UAE split across three venues – Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah Cricket Stadium. While Sharjah hosted six matches, Dubai and Abu Dhabi hosted seven each.