All eight clubs in the Indian Premier League will end up playing a grand total of zero home matches in IPL 2021, but a select few franchises have expressed their displeasure over the format. Franchises believe that, despite BCCI’s best efforts, the format could end up being counterproductive.
On Sunday, the BCCI released the schedule for the 2021 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), and it was a rather interesting one. The board revealed that the competition will be played across a total of six venues, with, interestingly, no franchise getting to play a single match at their home. Each franchise will play their ‘home’ matches in venues that are not their actual home and the playoffs will be played at a venue neutral for all franchises - the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad.
But while the format was devised to eliminate home advantage and ensure fairness, a select few franchises have already expressed their displeasure over the scheduling. One franchise official, for instance, has questioned how the format is ‘fair’ when teams like Delhi and Punjab, who have a host of Mumbai and Karnataka players in their side, get to play at the Wankhede and Chinnaswamy respectively. The official has argued that the presence of native-state players will automatically ensure that these franchises have a home advantage.
"Delhi have players like Prithvi Shaw, Ajinkya Rahane and skipper Shreyas Iyer who are from Mumbai and the team plays its first three games at the Wankhede. They will have advantage just as Punjab Kings who have players like KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal, and coach Anil Kumble, and they play five games in Bangalore? Don't they have the advantage of being familiar with the conditions at the Chinnaswamy Stadium? The plan can be counter-productive,” Cricbuzz quoted a franchise official as saying.
The BCCI also announced that the initial stage of the tournament would be played behind closed doors, but one official has questioned why, in that case, franchises cannot simply play in their own backyard.
The idea behind the cluster format devised by the BCCI is to limit travel - each team won’t travel more than 4 times in the entire season - but players will, nevertheless, be exposed to far more outsiders than they were in IPL 2020. An official pointed out that, in the current format, there are high chances of the integrity of the bubble being compromised.
"Those inside the team bubble are not allowed to meet the owners of their franchise and here by having to fly four times, change hotels and buses, the players will get exposed to outsiders. No doubt, we will engage charter flights and private airports but there will always be questions over the sanctity of the bio bubbles."
The 14th edition of the IPL will commence on April 9, with defending champions Mumbai Indians taking on two-time finalists Royal Challengers Bangalore.