Having played surrogate hosts to Pakistan’s ‘home’ matches over the last few years, the UAE is now all set to welcome the seventh edition of the IPL to its shores. The desert nation was chosen as the venue for the first phase of the T20 extravaganza—to be held from April 16 to April 30 —with 16 matches scheduled to be held there before the action shifts closer home.
It was confirmed that the third and final phase, which includes the knockout stages of the tournament, will be held in India with the final scheduled for June 1 in Mumbai.
The BCCI though have kept Bangladesh as a stand-by option for the second phase of IPL 7—from May 1 to May 12—if they fail to convince the Home Ministry of providing the tournament with the necessary security. The BCCI press release though didn’t carry a detailed itinerary with the exact dates and venues to be decided in the coming days.
The announcement comes on the back of incessant speculation over the last two weeks regarding where the IPL would be headed this year. Just like it had five years ago, the issue had arisen due to the tournament clashing with the general elections in the country, scheduled to be held between April 7 and May 12. Back in 2009, the then IPL chairman Lalit Modi had shifted the entire tournament to South Africa.
This time around, however, the BCCI officials had repeatedly insisted that they were keen on hosting at least 70 per cent of the matches in India itself. Though the elections will still be on when the first phase concludes in the UAE, seven out of the nine phases would have been complete by the first week of May. And the board is confident of making a headway in their negotiations with the Home Ministry with one official telling the The Indian Express that the decision will now be taken by the state governments.
“We’re still hopeful of having all the May matches here in India. The only two phases of the election that will be left then will be in Uttar Pradesh, which is anyway not among the original IPL venues. The home ministry has said that if the state governments give the go-ahead they have no issue, because it’s they who have to deploy the security,” he said.
“We have only kept Bangladesh more as a back-up in case it doesn’t work out. But the business end of the tournament will be held in India, which is great,” he added.
While South Africa had emerged as a front-runner it lost out eventually with the BCCI opting to keep the tournament closer to the sub-continent. The official indicated that the similarity between the conditions, both in terms of weather and wickets, was what went in the favour of the UAE.
Bangladesh was ruled out as an option for the first phase as it would just have completed a hectic month of playing host to the Asia Cup followed by the World T20. At the same time, both the franchises as well as the sponsors are said to have been pleased with the move to the UAE.
“The conditions in the UAE are similar to India. And the franchises also thought that the proximity was essential. They wouldn’t have to travel that far. If it wasn’t just 16 matches, we would have considered South Africa. Moreover, all parties are delighted with the market for cricket in the UAE, which hosted the U-19 World Cup as well as the connectivity between the grounds there,” the official explained.