MUMBAI: Moving away from their initial plan to host the Indian Premier League’s (IPL) 2021 edition between Mumbai and Pune — and part of the playoffs and final in Ahmedabad — the BCCI has now shortlisted six cities to conduct this year’s tournament.
Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad and Delhi have been shortlisted to host this year’s IPL. Delhi, it is learnt, was included in the list later, after the board was convinced that they could not include Hyderabad for reasons concerning the local cricket association.
TOI understands that the Maharashtra government, which has been at loggerheads with the centre on a variety of issues, has given the go-ahead for matches at the Wankhede Stadium.
However, there won’t be any spectators, just like in the three ODIs against England in Pune, which will now be played behind closed doors due to the sudden spike in Covid-19 cases in Maharashtra.
The IPL, which is scheduled to begin in the second week of April (tentatively 11th) and conclude in the opening week of June (tentatively 6th), may not find spectators being allowed at some centres while other centres may allow fans up to only 50% of the stadium’s capacity.
While the BCCI has zeroed in on the decision, it hasn’t had any word with the IPL franchises yet.
Franchises who have learnt about this decision unofficially, are blowing hot and cold. While some are willing to wait and see how BCCI goes about organising the tournament across six cities and preparing bio-secure bubbles across these venues for the smooth conduct of the tournament, there are some franchises that are not happy.
“Obviously, it’s scary. The earlier idea of hosting it in one or two cities sounded far better. After all, the 2020 edition was conducted between three venues and it went well,” a franchise representative said.
Teams and team owners are waiting to see how the BCCI goes about organising this edition. The board has proposed that the eight franchises should be divided in groups and matches should be conducted venue-wise, where all teams that are part of one group play their home and away games between them before moving to another group at another venue, so on and so forth.
“The format of the tournament will not change. It’s the same home-and-away format, with each team hosting seven and travelling for the other seven. That’ll mean a total of 60 matches, like it is conducted every year. The grouping of teams is only to ensure that preparing bio-secure bubbles becomes easier and there’s less confusion,” say those in the know.
The decision on whether to club the teams into groups or not is still being debated. “Franchises had started preparing, thinking it was only going to be between Mumbai and Pune, with the playoffs in Ahmedabad. Those plans change now. Franchises will want to know more and that will happen soon,” say sources.