ECB hopeful of fans in the stands during IPL in UAE
Three venues had already set the ball rolling in terms of preparations, back in April itself
Just as this season's Indian Premier League (IPL) was thrown a lifeline with the UAE, as has been the case, stepping in as gracious hosts, there is hope and a strong chance that cricket aficionados here can get in on the action of the world's richest and most popular league.
As we speak, work is in full steam for the IPL to be staged on these shores from September 19 to November 10.
And while the initial plan is for the competition to be played behind closed doors, the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) are hopeful that the Asian expats, who make up a large number of the UAE population, as well as others, can witness many of these duels in the desert.
It is likely that the UAE football league - the Arabian Gulf League - is likely to have limited spectators when it kicks off in September - and the IPL too could follow suit, perhaps in October.
"As hosts, the Emirates Cricket Board will work closely with the authorities to seek approval on what protocols need to be followed, this includes fan attendance, we will then discuss with the BCCI to assess their spectator requirements," Mubashshir Usmani, general secretary of the ECB, told the Khaleej Times.
"We want our Asian diaspora, as well as the other expat and Emirati sports-loving fans (in the UAE) to be able to watch the action from the stands," he added.
To that end and as well as successfully delivering the tournament, the ECB has been liasioning with various government entities across the three emirates - Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah.
The Board is in discussions with the Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah Sports Councils, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah tourism bodies, Police and the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention.
"These talks are ongoing, however we are very encouraged by their expertise and the support to deliver a successful tournament," Usmani said.
The three venues - Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi, Dubai International Cricket Stadium and Sharjah Cricket Stadium - had already set the ball rolling in terms of preparations, back in April itself.
"The Executive teams and the grounds-men at all three stadia have been working tirelessly on maintaining the grounds even before we presented our proposal to the BCCI (in April). UAE boasts some of the best facilities. We have three grounds, in which there are two Ovals. The ICC Academy and the Abu Dhabi facility have their own practice grounds. Practice sessions will be planned once the BCCI have announced the final schedule," he revealed.
The ECB has had rich experience in hosting world class cricket events but this presents a different experience, especially in the times of the Covid-19 pandemic.
"Without a doubt Covid-19 has added another factor to be managed. We are extremely pleased with how the authorities responded to the virus and we continue to see encouraging numbers across the country - in decreasing cases and increasing recoveries. We have confidence in their directives and we will fully support any requirements stipulated by the relevant Health Authorities in regards to Covid-19 safety measures and management," he said.
With regard to the health protocols that would be in place, Usmani said: "The authorities and their experts will provide both us and the BCCI with the UAE quarantine guidelines in a timely manner which the teams and officials will follow. The SOPs surrounding the arrangements are currently being prepared by these experts and once the authorities provide us with the finalised guidelines we can implement."
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