MUMBAI: The Indian Premier League’s (IPL) governing council (GC) has decided to ask the franchises and other stakeholders to delay their travel to UAE approximately by a week — possibly to set the Covid-19 protocols in place for this year’s edition — and travel only by August 20.
The GC also took a call to postpone the final of the tournament from November 8 to 10 to give broadcasters Star India an extra two days in the Diwali week and advance the start of the evening matches from 8 pm IST to 7.30 pm IST, which means the game will begin in the UAE at 6 pm.
In doing so, the IPL has moved away from its tradition of hosting the final on a Sunday. Those tracking multiple viewpoints say “not having a final on the weekend won’t matter because it’s the Diwali week”. TOI had reported the same last week.
The major focus of Sunday’s discussion between the GC members was on “requesting” IPL’s stakeholders to travel to UAE only on August 20. Most franchises were initially planning to travel in the second week of August – between 10th and 15th – and had already started work on travel and accommodation during these dates.
GC’s view possibly stems from the fact that it needs to put the Covid protocols in place, discuss those protocols in detail with league’s stakeholders and then coordinate with the UAE government and the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) before travel can begin. Majority of the franchises are in agreement with the decision.
All franchises landing in the UAE on the same day will mean creating a bubble from the airport to their respective hotels, which will then be the norm for the next two months of IPL. “We see logic in BCCI’s decision. They have to put certain protocols in place and coordinate with the UAE government to ensure that they will be followed to the ‘T’. For instance, we’ll be travelling by road between cities – Dubai to Sharjah to Abu Dhabi. So, will we be checked at all departure and entry points? How will two franchises – who have their separate bio-secure bubbles – coordinate with each other’s protocols on match days? BCCI has a lot on its hands and they can expect our full cooperation,” team officials told TOI.
Franchises have been allowed to travel with their full squads – a maximum of 24 – but teams are expected to fly in more ‘working hands’ keeping in mind they will require net bowlers, fielders during training, general physicians (unrelated to Covid) and individuals in other essential categories.
In fact, eight players from each franchise will travel from other countries and Indians flying to UAE, per squad, will be limited to not more than 14 to 16 players. The IPL GC is also set to say “yes” to teams which want the option of players getting to travel with family members. “They (players) will be in complete isolation. It can be very depressing. Family members are okay to travel as long as they will be part of the same bio-secure bubble,” sources said.
The BCCI expects an official nod from the central government and a letter signalling the green light for travel to UAE in the next 48 to 72 hours. “BCCI has been in touch with the External Affairs Ministry and that is being worked out,” sources add. The GC also decided to retain all its sponsors.