After months of uncertainty due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the delayed season of the popular Indian Premier League will kick off in the United Arab Emirates this weekend with a clash between defending champions Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings.
The 2020 edition of the world’s richest Twenty20 cricket league was originally scheduled to begin on March 29 in India but had to be postponed indefinitely by the country’s cricket board due to worsening situation of the pandemic.
IPL’s cancellation would have meant a potential billion dollar loss in revenue, leading the board to shift the tournament out of India, which is the world’s second-worst affected country with over 5 million cases of coronavirus infections.
The postponement of this year’s Twenty20 World Cup in Australia because of the pandemic also helped. It presented a window in the international cricket calendar for the eight-team league, which is attended by most of the world’s top players.
The matches will be held in bio-secure bubbles in Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi in front of empty stands but organisers are hoping to allow some fans during the later stages of the tournament, which will end on Nov. 10.
It will not be the first time that the competition has had to be held outside India.
The 2009 edition took place in South Africa as it coincided with India’s general elections and the UAE hosted the early matches of the eight-team tournament five years later for the same reason.
The Rohit Sharma-led Mumbai Indians, who beat Chennai by one run in last year’s final to win their fourth title in seven years, once again look the team to beat with a balanced squad.