Champions Mumbai Indians celebrate with the trophy after the 2019 edition of the IPL. File
When the world is battling the coronavirus, the UAE once again showed its never-say-die attitude as the country’s cricket board offered to host the 13th edition of the cash-rich Indian Premier League.
General Secretary of Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) Mubashshir Usmani confirmed the reports in an exclusive interview with Gulf Today over the phone.
“Yes, not only did we make an offer to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to host the IPL but we are also confident of getting the reply in the affirmative from the Indian board,” said Usmani.
“We have a very impressive record of hosting the series and tournament on a neutral venue. We have done it in the past also and can do it again. We are well equipped with all the facilities to hold it successfully. Our state-of-the-art stadium makes the UAE the most viable and desirable neutral venue.”
The IPL has been held outside India twice in the 12-year long history of the tournament. In 2009, the entire edition was shifted to South Africa while in 2014 some matches were held in the UAE. On both the occasions, parliamentary elections were the reason for shifting the tournament.
The UAE also has been hosting the cricket tournaments and leagues for over 25 years. The iconic Sharjah Cricket Stadium holds the record for hosting the most number of ODIs.
In reply to a question about the UAE government’s permission for holding the league during the pandemic, Usmani said: “We are still waiting for the nod from the BCCI. Once we get the confirmation from the Indian board, we will start our preparations.
“We will take all the necessary permission from the UAE government and the tournament will be held in accordance with the guidelines of the concerned authorities.
“We will start making all the logistical arrangements for the touring teams, keeping in view their safety and well-being during the time of the pandemic,” added Usmani.
The decision-makers in the Indian board are divided 3-2 over whether they should host the 13th edition of the IPL in India or abroad, as reported by IANS.
But there are other voices in BCCI who sounded the concern, saying that holding the league was more important than the venue.
The Indian board is making all possible efforts to hold the cash-rich league as the cancellation of the event will cost them around $530 million.
The IPL is generally held in the month of April and May every year in India. But due to COVID-19, this year the tournament was postponed indefinitely.
So the only window left for holding IPL is in October and November, which coincides with World Twenty20 to be held in Australia at the same time.
BCCI is eyeing the same dates as the World Twenty20 is likely to be postponed to the Australian summer or cancelled this year completely.
A clearer picture about the window for IPL may emerge if the ICC makes a formal announcement regarding the World T20 following their next board meeting through video conference on June 10.
Talking about the weather in the country during October-November, Usmani said: “The weather will not be a problem as it is not too hot at that time. The weather in India is also like that. Moreover, in October, winter begins to set in gradually. And most of the matches will be played at night.”
The other country in the fray to hold the IPL is Sri Lanka, which also offered BCCI to host the lucrative tournament. However, unlike the UAE, they do not have any past record of hosting neutral series and tourneys.
They are a World Cup-winning nation and have always hosted either bilateral series involving their team or a tournament, which featured them as well.
Usmani declined to comment on whether the tournament would be across all three venues or at one place to avoid logistical problems and travelling during COVID-19.
“This will be entirely BCCI’s discretion which venues they want, whether they want to hold all matches at the same stadium or across the UAE,” he said.
The UAE has a long history of hosting international matches and bilateral series on neutral venues. It dates back to 1984 when the first official ODI was played in the country, three years after Javed Miandad XI and Sunil Gavaskar XI faced off in a Cricketers Benefit Fund Series in 1981 at the Sharjah stadium.
Since then the UAE has never looked back and went on to become the host of the most number of ODIs.
It is not only the historical Sharjah Cricket Stadium which is in record books but Dubai International Stadium also holds the record for hosting the maximum number of T20s.
Till recently, Pakistan had been playing all their home series in the UAE – since a terrorist attack on a bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team in 2009 in Lahore – before taking cricket to their country in 2019.
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