The IPL Governing Council, on Sunday, announced the schedule for the 2021 edition of the Indian Premier League. Keeping the safety and bubble in mind, they have decided to go ahead with a cluster-caravan format this year, with no teams playing at their respective home venues.
What is the fuss about?
Unlike previous years, when the IPL was hosted at home, this year, keeping the safety of the players in mind, the BCCI will host the mega event in a completely untested format in the league. While each team will play each other twice in the course of the league phase, this time, no team will enjoy the home advantage. Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, and Ahmedabad are the six centres that will host the league phase of the tournament while the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad will host all the playoff games.
Will that mean Kohli will not play in Bangalore and MS Dhoni, not in Chennai? How is that fair?
Yes, that’s right. No franchise will play any game at their traditional home ground. It has been done simply to keep the fairness of the tournament given Hyderabad, Mohali and Jaipur are not hosting any games this season. The three franchises were initially unhappy over the scheduling, but with the new plan, it seems like things would be set up finely. Hence, that means, MS Dhoni might never play another game in Chennai.
Not playing at home would leave the teams massively handicapped, won’t it?
Yes and No. CSK, for example, will play five games in Mumbai and four games in Bengaluru apart from other games in Kolkata and Delhi and that leaves them in a doldrum. Mumbai and Bengaluru are two of the most batting friendly venues in the country, thus CSK’s strategy of firing by spin might not hold a lot of weight. On the other hand, Punjab Kings, who have a lot of Karnataka players in their set-up, will cherish playing at Chinnaswamy and however, funny, it sounds RCB will be happy not to play any games in Bengaluru this year.
Okay, Tell me more! How is the tournament structured?
Sure. We are in the business now. Unlike previous editions when the two finalists normally kick-start the tournament in the following season, this year, defending champions Mumbai Indians will take on Royal Challengers Bangalore in Chennai instead of Delhi Capitals. The Shreyas Iyer-led side will start their campaign on the second day by taking on Chennai Super Kings at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.
In the league stage, Chennai, Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Kolkata will host 10 games each, while Delhi and Ahmedabad will host eight each. It has been done to accommodate the election in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu. While elections in West Bengal will be held from late March to late April, KSCA is now installing new floodlights in Chinnaswamy for which the two cities will host the backend of the tournament.
But there are rising COVID cases in Mumbai now. Won’t that have an impact?
Sharad Pawar has BCCI’s back, so stay assured. The steady rise in the number of COVID cases even led to the government banning crowds for the three-match ODI series between India and England. However, Pawar, whose government is in power in Maharashtra now, assured the board that the state government will do everything within its power to conduct matches in the state. Then IPL Chairman Brijesh Patel and IPL chief operating officer Hemang Amin met Pawar at his residence following which the BCCI listed Mumbai as a venue.
Have they done away with the double headers as they were saying earlier?
NO. Surprisingly, there are more this year. There are as many as 11 doubleheaders scheduled this year, the first of which will be played between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kolkata Knight Riders in Chennai on April 18. Delhi Capitals and Punjab Kings will take on each other in the evening game.
Are crowds allowed in the venue?
There are multiple factors that played a part in BCCI now banning the crowds for, at least, the initial part of the tournament. Firstly, the rise in Covid-19 cases all across the country at a rapid pace is one of the reasons for the move but there is a bigger fear among the BCCI top brass. The fact that this is a dry run for the upcoming T20 World Cup in November means so much more.
To avoid any PSL-like situation ahead of the World event, the BCCI doesn’t want to take any chances. However, there is a good chance that fans will be allowed in the later stage of the tournament but there is no clarity regarding the same yet. One can only hope for the best.
Cool. Tell me about the Women’s IPL.. err.. Women’s T20 Challenge?
There is no clarity yet on the Women’s T20 Challenge but going by the commitment of the BCCI, it seems we might have just another showpiece event of three teams. That, however, will be decided on a later date. The venue is most likely to be in Ahmedabad to mark the double-headers but that is pure presumption.