The Indian Premier League (IPL) lies at the heart of India’s – and the world’s – cricket economy. A cancellation, whether due to the pandemic or anything else, would have cost the Indian cricket body (BCCI) between US$500 and 530 million – and that’s just the value of the media rights for a year. In a difficult economic context, the fact that the tournament is being held this year, albeit a few months later than its traditional March-May schedule, is a positive indication. The IPL economy extends far beyond India; cricket boards in smaller countries, such as Afghanistan, profit from allowing their players to compete.
Cricket has returned since its mid-March hiatus, with England hosting international teams from the West Indies, Pakistan, Ireland, and Australia, but the IPL is a full competition, logistically more demanding and international in scope. There are eight teams involved, as well as hundreds of players, support staff, and referees. In a Covid-19 universe, the traditional IPL scheduling template, which involves eight venues throughout the country and several (and frequently extremely long) flights, would not have worked. Given India’s rising infection rate, this is especially true.
What was required was a more compact host country, essentially in the same time zone, with stadiums adjacent to one another and accessible by short road travels, as well as top-notch communication, lodging, and other facilities. And it should be virus-free.
Simply put, the UAE checks all of the boxes in terms of size, amenities, and location. It’s roughly where the cricket world’s geographical center is located. The majority of the players are from India, but a global mix including; New Zealand, Australia, England, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Afghanistan, and many Caribbean nations. Furthermore, Covid-19 infection rates remain modest and localized. In any case, the UAE has a lengthy history of hosting cricket matches, having served as Pakistan’s “home” venue since 2009 and hosting a portion of the 2014 IPL.
The IPL, along with the eight clubs, has created bio-bubbles in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah, where the matches will be held, similar to what the NBA did with a bio-bubble in Orlando. Before entering the bio-bubble, players and officials have to pass five Covid-19 tests – two before flying out and three within the first six days of arriving in the UAE. Then, throughout the tournament, all squad members will be tested on the fifth day of every week.
No one is allowed to exit the bio-secure bubble during the event, as per rules. Squad members are discouraged from having any close contact even within the bubble, which includes moving between hotel rooms, according to strict social distance norms. Members of the squad have also been instructed to wear masks outside their hotel rooms to avoid excessive movement. If an injured athlete needs to go to the hospital for X-rays or scans, the guidelines recommend that he or she stay in the clinic and have little contact with other people. From a safety standpoint, all of the teams have reserved full hotel or resort wings.
This is similar to the rules for the cricket matches in England
At the Ageas Bowl in Southampton and Old Trafford in Manchester, England hosted the West Indies, Pakistan, Ireland, and Australia. Both of these venues offer on-site hotels, making local transit and lodging easier. For the duration of the bouts, all players were enclosed in a bio-bubble. Simple infractions, such as a player taking a shortcut home while traveling from one location to another, were aggressively enforced.
The IPL is set to restart on September 18 or 19, with up to 10 double-headers scheduled to be played over three weeks.
The finals might take place on October 9 or 10. After many players tested positive for Covid-19, the league was banned indefinitely in early May.
The BCCI stated in advice that it did not wish to jeopardize the safety of the players, support staff, and other participants involved in the IPL’s organization. This decision was made with all stakeholders’ safety, health, and well-being in mind.