IPL 2020 which was postponed with an initial starting date of 29th March and moved to the UAE starts Saturday 19th September without its customary glitz and glamour, but it will be a welcome relief to cricket fans amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The shortest format extravaganza was postponed along with other major international sporting events as countries went into virus-triggered lockdowns.
It was then moved to the United Arab Emirates as active cases surge across India. All the eight teams have been in strict, bio-secure ‘bubbles’ since landing in the UAE, with the competition set to commence when defending champions Mumbai Indians take on Chennai Super Kings in Abu Dhabi.
There will be no opening ceremony for the world’s richest T20 league, and the games will be played behind closed doors at three venues – Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi.
IPL 2020 May Witness Highest Rating On Television And Crowds May Return Later: Sourav Ganguly
Yet the president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, Sourav Ganguly, expects a surge in viewership for the 13th edition of IPL with most of the matches scheduled for India’s evening shows on Television.
“They (broadcasters) are actually expecting the highest rating of IPL this season because they believe if (people) don’t turn up in the ground, they will be actually watching on their television sets. There is a positive in everything,” said Ganguly.
Sourav Ganguly said crowds could even return to the stands later in the 53-day tournament, which ends on November 10.
“Because of the Covid and infection, you don’t want people to be too close to each other, but very soon you will see there will be 30 percent people in the ground with social distancing,” the former captain said.
“They are properly tested and allowed to enter the ground. But I think that is going to happen over a period of time.”
Despite controversies, IPL has attracted top foreign stars with Australia’s Pat Cummins the most expensive overseas player after he was bought by Kolkata Knight Riders for a whopping Rs. 15.5 crore in IPL 2020 auction.
The spotlight will also be on Indian cricketers including Chennai Super Kings captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Indian skipper Virat Kohli, who will seek his maiden IPL title with Royal Challengers Bangalore.
MS Dhoni who retired from international cricket last month along with Suresh Raina remains one of the star attractions of the tournament.
IPL 2020 Will Bring Back Normalcy And Will Be Special: Robin Uthappa
Rajasthan Royals batsman and former KKR player Robin Uthappa believes IPL 2020 will attract cricket-lovers after a year hit by sporting postponements and cancellations.
“Most definitely, it is going to be really special this year, simply because of what we all have gone through as a human race,” Uthappa said in a video posted on the IPL’s official website.
“I think in this unpredictable time, we were and are craving for normalcy and this tournament and sports, in general, brings about that feeling of normalcy back into our lives.”
To reduce the number of people on the grounds, there will be no dancing cheerleaders. Players will be ferried to and from hotels under strict BCCI’s health safety protocols. More than 20,000 corona-virus tests will be carried out according to officials.
The tournament has already been under scrutiny after two Chennai players Rituraj Gaekwad and Deepak Chahar tested positive for the dreaded virus. Several top players like Suresh Raina, Harbhajan Singh and Lasith Malinga pulled out in the build-up, mostly citing personal reasons.
The IPL is the most popular domestic league in the world since its inception in 2008 but has also seen corruption and match-fixing cases. A spot-fixing scandal in 2013 led to two teams Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals being suspended for two seasons in 2016 and 2017.
But with the teams in bio-bubbles, BCCI anti-corruption chief Ajit Singh told AFP last month that “controlling interaction between players and others will not be very difficult”.