A healthy IPL in the new normal
Tournament organisers would need to factor in testing, crowds, hospitality and safe travel arrangements for players and officials of the teams and boards
Even as the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) waits for the Indian government's clearance for this season's Indian Premier League to be played in the UAE, questions remain on the logistics of hosting a tournament this size keeping in mind the global pandemic situation. The UAE, however, has successfully contained the spread of the coronavirus and was the natural choice to host the tournament. But health remains the most pressing issue on people's minds issue and tournament organisers would need to factor in testing, crowds, hospitality and safe travel arrangements for players and officials of the teams and boards.
The Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) is awaiting word from the BCCI to take the tournament forward and time is of the essence. The IPL is, indeed, a huge logistical exercise, and the health situation at this time is not conducive for the conduct of the tournament in the 'old normal'. Health comes first and far outweighs the commercial element of the tournament. There are players and support staff of the eight franchises, individual operations teams, BCCI officials, broadcasters, the production team and commentators to be kept safe from infection during the duration of the event.
IPL 2020 will be a sanitised version of the gala. It will be held in a different or new normal. That is the only certainty at this point.
However, staging the tournament away from India is not new for the IPL organisers with the 2009 and the first part of the 2014 editions held in South Africa and the UAE. And while the BCCI can refer to those blueprints, this presents a new challenge for the top brass at cricket's richest body during the pandemic.
For starters, there is travel. With restrictions still in place in most countries, it will be a massive task to get everyone together, especially the foreign players and commentators.
It is understood that the BCCI has already started talking to UAE carriers Emirates and Etihad and also have the option of chartered flights on the table.
If the tournament is given the green signal, the IPL bandwagon, which could involve approximately 1,500 people, will be arriving in the UAE. And while their visas and hotels should be the least of the worries, it is the health protocols that need to be looked into, like quarantine and Covid tests, both in India and the UAE. Perhaps, limiting the number of staff could be worth a thought.
Creating a bio-secure bubble could also be paramount right from when they touchdown until the last ball is bowled.
With September 19 to November 8 pencilled in, there could be 60 fixtures and it will be a long-drawn exercise, not just in terms of the three venues, but also the hotels, travel and training facilities.
What would help is the UAE's outstanding capabilities in hosting events, which is second to none. The country has the experience of hosting the Asia Cup, various ICC events as well as Pakistan's bilateral series and the Pakistan Super League, apart from the Abu Dhabi T10 League.
The ongoing UFC Fight Island, which concludes on Sunday, is the best example where the UAE created a secure environment for successfully staging the popular Mixed Martial Arts event.
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