The IPL 2019 will have a blockbuster beginning — MS Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings versus Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore at Chepauk on March 23. On Tuesday, the BCCI released the first two weeks’ schedule for the T20 league, keeping a close eye on this year’s general elections and focusing on having home-and-away fixtures as much as possible.
Between March 23 and April 5, six franchises will play two home and two away matches each. Delhi Capitals, however, will play three home and two away fixtures, while RCB will host two games and will be on the road for three matches. A total of 17 matches will be played across eight home venues of the respective franchises in the first two weeks.
“The idea is to finish the home-and-away fixtures as much as possible (in the first phase) so that towards the latter half, if we need to juggle things and pick neutral venues we can do it. It’s already late and the franchises will have to figure out the logistics and travels plans,” a BCCI official told this paper. If the BCCI is forced to reschedule the first phase, then also, it will try and finish the majority of the home-and-away fixtures.
“This is still subject to the announcement of Lok Sabha 2019 election dates. Once the election dates are released we will address any issues with the first two weeks and also prepare a schedule for the remainder of the season working with the local authorities around the polling dates,” a statement on the Indian Premier League website said.
The backup plans are already in place. Neutral venues like Rajkot, Nagpur and Indore are on stand-bys. Right now, the cricket board is confident about holding the entire IPL in India. The IPL franchises are in sync with the first phase schedule. Defending champions Chennai Super Kings are also happy that the tournament this year is unlikely to move out of India. “Basically, we got the schedule for two weeks only. We are happy with the schedule given. We got our first game in Chennai,” CSK chief executive Kasi Viswanathan told The Indian Express.
He is hoping that CSK will get a few more home matches in the latter half of the tournament as well. “We have got two (home) games now. Hopefully, we will get some more games in Chennai also, once the election schedule is announced. Normally, Chennai has single phase polling only. So it will not be a problem for us; that’s what I feel.”
With regards to logistics and travel plans, CSK are ready for an overdrive in case rescheduling happens. “We are used to this type of pressure,” Viswanathan said. Last year, six CSK home matches had been shifted out of Chennai due to security concerns over the Cauvery issue.
Earlier, in 2009 and 2014, the IPL had moved out of India as it clashed with the general elections. In 2009, South Africa played host to the whole event, while in 2014, the first 20 matches were held in UAE.
Given the uncertainties over the dates, taking the IPL overseas this year was an option. But the BCCI decided to have it in India only. The Super Kings CEO appreciated the decision. “It’s good for us that the tournament is played in India, because our sponsors will be happy. If it happens outside India, we lose our sponsorship revenue as well as our gate receipts. For an IPL outside India, total gate receipts are shared equally between the eight franchises. Here we will have the home gate. Also, our sponsors are all Indian companies. They would like to have it only here,” Viswanathan explained.
Kolkata Knight Riders captain Dinesh Karthik, too, spoke about his keenness to play in front of home fans. Karthik was present at Eden Gardens for the Mayor’s Cup final on Tuesday morning. With the IPL first phase schedule yet to be released, he was asked about the possibility of KKR home matches shifting out of Kolkata. And the skipper said: “I will miss Kolkata (in such a situation) because there’s a certain vibe, a certain energy, when we play at the Eden. Playing in front of 60,000 (fans) cheering for you, makes a massive difference.”
‘No missive on workload’
Kolkata: Kolkata Knight Riders CEO Venky Mysore on Tuesday said that the IPL teams are yet to receive any guidelines on workload management from the BCCI with regards to World Cup hopefuls. “We have not heard any such thing from them (BCCI). The tournament is finishing early enough. If May 12 is the final and India plays its first game on June 5, I think there is enough of a gap. But we have not had any such guidance or instruction,” Mysore said on the sidelines of the Mayors Cup at Eden Gardens in Kolkata.
IPL Preliminary schedule for first two weeks:
March 23: CSK vs RCB (8 PM)
March 24: KKR vs SRH (4 PM)
March 24: MI vs DC (8 PM)
March 25: RR vs KXIP (8 PM)
March 26: DC vs CSK (8 PM)
March 27: KKR vs KXIP (8 PM)
March 28: RCB vs MI (8 PM)
March 29: SRH vs RR (8 PM)
March 30: KXIP vs MI (4 PM)
March 30: DC vs KKR (8 PM)
March 31: SRH vs RCB (4 PM)
March 31: CSK vs RR (8 PM)
April 1: KXIP vs DC (8 PM)
April 2: RR vs RCB (8 PM)
April 3: MI vs CSK (8 PM)
April 4: DC vs SRH (8 PM)
April 5: RCB vs KKR (8 PM)