Saturday, 19 September, gets the IPL ball rolling with the tournament-opener between defending champions Mumbai Indians and MS Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings.
This is the first time the tournament is being played entirely in the UAE. This is also the first time Indian players and the BCCI are involved in a cricket tournament in the ‘new normal’ of the COVID-19 era.
Not surprisingly then, there are still many questions about the league that are unanswered and some more that have received only tentative replies.
So, here’s everything you may want to know about IPL 2020 – the post-lockdown edition.
IPL’s been moved to the UAE, but what time will the matches air in India?
It may be the ‘Indian’ Premier League being played in the UAE but the broadcaster has ensured the matches will be played according to timings suitable to the Indian audience.
With the one and a half hour time difference, the evening matches will be played at 7:30pm IST and at 6pm UAE time. The 10 days there are double headers, the afternoon games will be played from 3:30pm IST or 2:00pm UAE time.
What kind of pitches are expected?
First off, this is the first IPL where an entire season will be played at just 3 venues, in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. Historically, the curators may put in all the work but one thing is inevitable – the tournament will favour the spinners.
PR Viswanathan who was the BCCI curator the last time the IPL was moved to the UAE, in 2014, told Hindustan Times that not too many big scores are to be expected. He said, “The weather there is very harsh. There is lot of dust accumulation and high clay content in the soil, so it’s difficult to produce a hard wicket there. You won’t get too many 200-plus scores.”
Delhi Capitals’ Shikhar Dhawan however told The Quint that predicting the nature of the pitches right now may not be as easy as it’s been an unprecedented 5 months since there’s been a match played on them.
“It’s never happened before that there has been no cricket on pitches for 5 months so we don’t know how the pitches will behave, until we play on them. (When IPL starts ) the wickets will be used a lot since there aren’t many grounds so there will be a lot of wear and tear. This will make things easier for the bowlers as the ball will spin and in a format like T20, it gets tough for the batsmen to score runs” he said.
When will the Aussie and English players be allowed to play the IPL?
With players playing in the Caribbean Premier League joining their teams in the UAE over the last few days, it’s just the English and the Aussies who are left. Currently playing an ODI series in England that wraps up on 16 September, the travelling party is expected to land in the UAE on 17 September via a private charter flight.
But the big question now is if they have to go into the compulsory 6-day quarantine or will they join their teams straight in practise?
The franchises are reportedly asking for leniency in the quarantine period as they argue that players are coming from one safe ‘bubble’ in the UK and with no outside contact during travel, they should be allowed to enter the IPL bubble and be part of the season that starts on 19 September.
However, there has been no official word from the BCCI on this but it is very unlikely – keeping in mind the scare in CSK camp few weeks back – that players will be allowed to skip quarantine.
Can Suresh Raina return to the IPL?
“You never know you might see me in the camp there again,” Suresh Raina told Cricbuzz when asked if he sees himself returning to the UAE to play the IPL.
But the question of course is – can he?
The one thing that does leave the door open for his return is that CSK have not yet replaced him in their squad so far.
As we have seen in this IPL already, quite a few players have pulled out and most have been replaced. Mumbai Indians called in James Pattinson in place of Lasith Malinga and Delhi Capitals signed Daniel Sams in place of Jason Roy and Anrich Nortje to replace Chris Woakes.
CSK, however, have not replaced Raina or Harbhajan Singh, who also pulled out due to personal reasons.
However, if Raina were to indeed want to join his team in Dubai, it will depend on the actual reason for his departure. In some reports it was suggested he left following a rift with MS Dhoni while Raina himself has said his decision was based out of fear for his young family due to the current health situation.
It has also been revealed that Raina’s family was attacked by robbers in Punjab in August. An incident that saw his uncle and his cousin lose their lives.
The batsman has been posting videos on social media of his training sessions so it may not just be a ‘maybe’ that he catches a flight back to Dubai.
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