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Exclusive: It was only apt to welcome fans back to stadiums, says Jay Shah

Fans during the IPL match between CSK and MI at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Sunday. (BCCI)
Fans during the IPL match between CSK and MI at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Sunday. (BCCI)

Dubai - Shah thanked UAE's government and the Emirates Cricket Board for their constant support


Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Mon 20 Sep 2021, 1:47 PM

Last updated: Mon 20 Sep 2021, 2:03 PM

With fans now back in the UAE stadiums, the Indian Premier League (IPL) resumed on Sunday after a four-month hiatus.

When the 2021 edition of the league was suspended in India due to a deadly second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) was under huge pressure to find a window and a suitable venue to salvage their money-spinner amid a busy international schedule.

BCCI secretary Jay Shah (centre) at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Sunday. (BCCI)
BCCI secretary Jay Shah (centre) at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Sunday. (BCCI)

But once again it was UAE that offered the world’s richest cricket board the perfect stage to resume their high-profile T20 league, having already hosted the event successfully last year.

BCCI secretary Jay Shah, during an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times, thanked UAE’s government and the Emirates Cricket Board for their constant support.

Shah also showed compassion for top foreign players like Pat Cummins, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler who would miss the remainder of the season in UAE due to bubble fatigue.

After the four-month break, the IPL is finally restarting. It must be a big relief for the board to have the big tournament back on track after the suspension due to Covid...

I won’t say relieved, but yes, we are happy to have reached this far and look forward to completing the remaining matches. We were always confident and at the same time committed to complete the 14th season that had to be stopped midway.

Quite a few top foreign players have opted out of the remaining matches in UAE. Is it going to affect the popular league?

There is no doubt that the IPL is the most popular T20 league in the world. At times players pull out, and that may happen for various reasons, many of which are beyond our control. We have always been supportive of players’ mental health and well-being. The replacement players are equally talented, and I am sure they will take this opportunity to showcase their skills.

Fans are back for the remaining IPL matches in UAE? How important is it for the league to have the fans back even at a reduced capacity?

Fans are an important cog in the sporting ecosystem. No player enjoys playing in an empty stadium. The whole world was under a lot of stress in the last two years and the situation across the globe was not appropriate to allow fans inside the stadium. Safety of all in the ecosystem is on top of our priority list, no matter what! So we did whatever best could be done under the circumstances (hosting the 13th edition in UAE without the crowd in the stands) last year. But, with the situation improving every day, it was only apt to welcome the fans back to the stadium. When you have fans back, it has an entirely different emotional connect and we have now managed to re-establish that.

UAE has always been very supportive, last year also the IPL was a huge success. Now not only the IPL and but the T20 World Cup will be hosted in UAE as well. Your thoughts on the relationship between the two countries’ governments and how it has helped cricket...

We were never in any doubt in the hosting capabilities of the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) and just to remind you, not only the last edition, the UAE hosted a part of the 2014 IPL as well. India has strong bilateral ties with the UAE and it is reflected in the excellent relationship that BCCI shares with Emirates Cricket Board. Moreover, the ECB has created a fantastic set-up with excellent cricketing infrastructure which makes it the ideal venue for any high-profile cricketing event.

With two new teams in IPL from next year, is it going to be a longer tournament? If so, will it impact the appearance of some foreign players for the entire length of the tournament considering the busy international schedule?

We are still working it out and we will be able to shed more light on this very soon. But we won’t wish to compromise on the quality of the League under any circumstances.

There was a controversy over the suspension of the fifth Test against England, with the British media raising doubts that the match was suspended because of IPL…

The BCCI has always maintained that the safety and well-being of the players are of paramount importance and there will be no compromise on that aspect. The outbreak of Covid-19 in the Indian team contingent forced the decision to call off the Test. The BCCI and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) held several rounds of discussion to find a way to play the Test match but jointly decided to call off the 5th Test in the series. There has been a lot of speculation on the subject, and it is yet to be ascertained what actually led to the outbreak of Covid-19 in the Indian contingent. Both the BCCI and ECB have agreed to reschedule the Test next season and we will continue to work together and make a formal announcement soon.

Will it be a one-off Test next year? Or will it be the fifth Test from the 2021 series?

Talks between the two boards are on.

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