CHENNAI: The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has set the ball rolling to resume the suspended 2021 edition of the IPL in the UAE. The top brass of the board, led by secretary Jay Shah, reached Dubai on Monday, where they are set to meet with the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) and the local authorities to discuss the nitty-gritty of not just hosting the IPL but possibly the T20 World Cup as well. It is understood that with the region being a prime spot to host international cricket events, the BCCI might sign an MoU with the ECB to use Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah as its 'home venues' for the next six months.
The BCCI delegation comprising Shah, treasurer Arun Dhumal, joint-secretary Jayesh George and general manager operations Dhiraj Malhotra landed in Dubai after getting special permission to land in the Emirate as passenger flights are suspended between the two countries because of the increasing Covid-19 numbers in India. BCCI president Sourav Ganguly, IPL COO Hemang Amin and Governing Council chairman Brijesh Patel are likely to join them mid-week.
The urgency showed by the BCCI is understandable as they are keen on finalising the dates as it would help a great deal in reducing the costs. The IPL and the T20 World Cup, should the BCCI choose to conduct the latter in the Gulf region, will coincide with Dubai Expo, which begins on October 1 and runs till March 31, 2022. With this being a global event and hotel rooms already booked, the BCCI and the IPL franchises believe they have to spend more on accommodation this time, which will burn a hole in their pocket.
But there could be good news as the ECB is understood to be keen on letting fans in each of the three stadiums. As things stand, the UAE has inoculated a majority of its population, so it will have no issues in opening the stadium to the fans. “Bringing fans back to the stadium is one of the things that is being discussed and since a large crowd will arrive for the Dubai Expo, allowing fans shouldn't be a problem. But whosoever is travelling for the IPL – players and other stakeholders – should also be vaccinated. That is one of the conditions,” a board official told this newspaper.
There are also strong indications that the BCCI will have to create a centralised bio-bubble that existed in 2020 when UAE hosted the IPL. The BCCI had done away with that when it hosted the event in India in April, and subsequently, it proved to be costly mistake as the tournament had to be suspended mid-way following several Covid-19 positive cases in the bubble.
Meanwhile, with regards to the T20 World Cup, although the BCCI will seek a month's time from the International Cricket Council to take a final call on the venue, the board will have discussions with the ECB on the way forward. In case the BCCI takes the event to the UAE, it has to decide on the revenue sharing model.
With the IPL likely to run till October 10, the three venues will be busy should the T20 WC also be held in the UAE. To ease the pressure and help the groundsmen, there are talks about whether to play one leg of the qualifying rounds in Oman. But for that, the quarantine rules between the two countries have to be finalised.