CHENNAI: With 10 teams in place and keeping the onset of the Southwest Monsoon by the first week of June in mind, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has told IPL franchises that it is contemplating beginning the tournament on March 27, a week ahead of the slated start date of April 2. This and the venue of the tournament, a choice between Mumbai, UAE and South Africa, will be decided before the two-day auction from February 12.
The top brass of the BCCI and IPL chief Brijesh Patel had a virtual meeting with the team owners on Saturday. It is understood that the unanimous choice is to host the event in India with Mumbai and Pune being the shortlisted venues. Discussions have taken place over using the Wankhede Stadium, DY Patil Stadium, Cricket Club of India and the MCA Stadium in Pune. It is understood that the Reliance Cricket Stadium in Navi Mumbai has also been spoken of as a potential host.
But the franchises have left the choice to the BCCI while remaining optimistic that the tournament can be held in India. For the record, schools are reopening in Maharashtra in the first week of February, which the BCCI believes is a good sign. In case the BCCI is not able to host the event in India, then it will get back to the franchises by February first week with other options.
While BCCI's earlier Plan B was South Africa and Sri Lanka, it is understood that the latter has been struck off as it usually rains in the month of May. Moreover, some franchises have also asked the BCCI to keep the UAE as a host because of familiarity.
However, not all are in favour of taking the tournament to the gulf again because the weather will be too hot in the months of April and May. With the tournament becoming a 74-match event following the inclusion of two new teams, there will be an increase in the day matches and there are concerns that playing afternoon matches will be too demanding on the players. Moreover, franchises who are against the UAE as a host have also pointed out how dew played a huge role in the outcome of matches which made it predictable. Plus, with only three venues available, and an increase in the number of matches, there are also concerns about the wear and tear of the pitches.
Hence, South Africa has been kept as an option with some franchises open to the idea of playing it there. Those who are against South Africa as a host have cited the fact that unlike in the UAE, teams will be forced to use flights regularly, which could be a high-risk factor under current circumstances.
"In the UAE, travel is not an issue because all venues will be covered by road. It is the same if we host the tournament in Mumbai and Pune. In South Africa, you will be forced to take flights. If that is the case, we can play the tournament in India itself," was the view of the franchises.
With regards to the start date, the BCCI believes starting it on March 27 will ensure all the overseas players -- in particular England -- will be available for the entire duration of the tournament. This also will help the BCCI to wrap the IPL by May end and potentially avoid the knockouts being affected by the monsoons which will bring heavy rains to Mumbai.