Cricket’s New Normal: IPL in UAE Bubble
Rewind: June 25, 1983: An epoch in Indian cricket annals as Kapil’s Dev(ils) did their own Calypso jig to shock the mighty Caribbean team led by legendary Clive Lloyd, the gangling and intimidating south paw, to hold aloft the One-Day International World Cup at the Mecca of Cricket – the Lord’s – in England.
Kapil again had a date with history when in 2007 he was associated with the Indian Cricket League (ICL) in the T20 format, which was the harbinger of present internationally acclaimed Indian Premier League fostered and promoted by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). The ICL, in fact, was labeled a rebel tournament as it was launched by a private TV channel and did not have the blessings of the international mandarins of the game.
Fast forward: September 19, 2020: The Indian Premier League will don a new Avataar on the floors of United Arab Emirates under a strict “Bio Bubble” thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. With sports events the world over going haywire due to the unprecedented spread of the virus, the IPL was shifted out of its usual March/April to May window and thanks to the postponement of the World T20 tournament will be now be staged under a ‘New Normal’.
Unfortunately, the shadow of the pandemic, however, still hangs over IPL 2020 as two players and a number of support staff of the Chennai Super Kings team are reported to have tested positive for COVID-19. All teams landed well ahead of schedule in UAE as per the new Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and were in quarantine. Routine tests as per the SOPs have put the BCCI and the huge fans of the game in a quandary. Everybody is keeping their fingers crossed hoping the tournament will begin as per the new schedule on September 19.
A dig into where it all began…
Even as the “rebel ICL” tournament took wings, the BCCI on September 13, 2007, the BCCI announced the launch of announced the launch of a franchise-based Twenty20 cricket competition called Indian Premier League (IPL) with the first season slated for April 2008. BCCI vice-president Lalit Modi, said to be the mastermind behind the idea of the IPL, in a “high-profile ceremony” in New Delhi spelled out the details of the tournament including its format, prize money, franchise revenue system and squad composition rules.
Thus began the journey of the IPL as a professional Twenty20 cricket league in India contested during March-April and May of every year by eight teams representing eight different cities in India including Chennai Super Kings, Delhi Capitals, Kings XI Punjab, Kolkata Knight Riders, Mumbai Indians, Rajasthan Royals, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Sunrisers Hyderabad.
The tournament was formatted along the lines of the very popular British and European Soccer Leagues with teams having the opportunities of playing home and away matches. IPL games avail of television timeouts under the Decision Review System and hence there is no time limit in which teams must complete their innings. However, a penalty may be imposed if the umpires find teams misusing this privilege. Each team is given a two-and-a-half-minute “strategic timeout” during each innings; one must be taken by the bowling team between the ends of the 6th and 9th overs, and one by the batting team between the ends of the 13th and 16th overs.
Rocked by controversy
The tournament has had its fair share of controversy when in 2016 Rising Pune Supergiants and Gujarat Lions had to replace Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals, as CSK and Rajasthan Royals were handed a two-year ban for illegal betting in July 2015.
CSK and RR were banned after a Supreme Court panel found a section of the team owners indulging in betting. On the basis of the recommendation made by the R.M. Lodha panel, the two teams were banned for two years.
“The team was involved, I was accused too. It was a tough phase for all of us. Fans felt that the punishment was harsh. Coming back was an emotional moment and I have always said, what doesn’t kill you makes you strong,” said Dhoni
The Lions and Supergiants were contractually bound to be part of the league for a period of two years, which ended with the culmination of IPL 2017. CSK and Rajasthan Royals came back into the fray on completing their ban period.
Given below is a brief year-wise review of IPL since 2008:
The 2008 season was the inaugural version of the IPL and commenced on April 18, 2008 with the final match held on June 1. The competition started with a double round robin group stage, in which each of the eight teams played a home match and an away match against every other team. These matches were followed by two semi-finals and a final where Rajasthan Royals defeated Chennai Super Kings in the final to win the title.
The 2009 Indian Premier League season, abbreviated as IPL 2 or the 2009 IPL, was the second season of the Indian Premier League, established by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in 2007. The tournament was hosted by South Africa between April 18 and May 24 as parliamentary elections were scheduled during the IPL window and the Indian government found it difficult to provide security for two mega events happening in the country simultaneously. It was the second biggest cricket tournament in the world, after the Cricket World Cup. The tournament was won by Deccan Chargers while the Royal Challengers Bangalore ended as runners-up.
The third 2010 Indian Premier League season returned to India and had an estimated television audience of more than 200 million people in the country. It was played between March 12 and April 25. It was also the first ever cricket tournament that was broadcast live on YouTube. The final four matches of the tournament were screened in 3D across movie halls in India. The tournament was won by the Chennai Super Kings, who defeated the Mumbai Indians in the final played at Mumbai.
The fourth edition or IPL 2011 was hosted in India with the opening and closing ceremonies being held in M. A. Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai, the home venue of the then reigning champions Chennai Super Kings. The season ran from April 8 to May 28. In this season, the number of teams in the league went from eight to 10 with the addition of Pune Warriors India and Kochi Tuskers Kerala. The tournament was won by the Chennai Super Kings for the second successive season defeating Royal Challengers Bangalore by 58 runs in the final.
The fifth season of the Indian Premier League, IPL 2012, began on April 4 and ended on May 27. Kolkata Knight Riders claimed the honors beating defending champions Chennai Super Kings by five wickets in the final. In this season, the number of teams in the league was reduced from 10 to nine with the termination of Kochi Tuskers Kerala.
The 2013 IPL season featured nine teams and was held from April 3 to May 26 with a gala opening ceremony held at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on April 2. This was the first season with PepsiCo as the title sponsor. The Kolkata Knight Riders were the defending champions. The highlight of this season was the spot fixing case was revealed by Delhi Police, leading to arrest of three cricketers from Rajasthan Royals and other persons. Mumbai Indians won the tournament for the first time defeating Chennai Super Kings in the final by 23 runs.
The 2014 IPL season featured eight teams, one fewer than in 2013 after the withdrawal of the Pune Warriors India, and was held from April 16 to June 1. The tournament was this time shifted to UAE again because of dates clashing with the parliamentary elections with a grand opening ceremony on April 15. Mumbai Indians the defending champions couldn’t sustain the form of the previous year. Kolkata Knight Riders won the tournament defeating Kings XI Punjab by 3 wickets with Manish Pandey being declared the Man-of-the-Match in the final.
The 2015 season of the Indian Premier League featured eight teams and was held from April 8 to May 24. The tournament’s opening ceremony was held at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on April 7. Kolkata Knight Riders also could not sustain their 2014 form resulting in Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings clashing in the final. Mumbai Indians defeated Chennai Super Kings by 41 runs in the final at Eden Gardens, Kolkata, to win the IPL title for the second time.
The 2016 season of the Indian Premier League rocked by the spot fixing controversy resulting in the debarring of two teams – CSK and Rajasthan Royals – was branded as Vivo IPL 2016. Gujarat Lions and Rising Pune Supergiant replaced the banned teams in the eight-team tournament. The tournament began on April 9 and concluded on May 29 with the final being played between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Sunrisers Hyderabad at M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore. Royal Challengers could not benefit from home advantage and crowd support as Sunrisers lifted the cup.
The 2017 IPL tournament featured the eight teams that featured in the previous season. The season started on April 5 and finished on May 21 with Hyderabad hosting the opening and final matches. The final turned out to be an electrifying event true to the spirit of T20 cricket with Mumbai Indians winning by one run against Rising Pune Supergiant. Mumbai Indians stamped their name for the third time on the trophy to achieve a new benchmark in the history of the tournament.
The 2018 editions held from April 7 to May 27 saw the return of Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals after serving two years of suspension for their alleged involvement of their respective owners in the 2013 IPL spot-fixing scam. Star Sports came on board as the official sponsor of the tournament by paying BCCI a whopping Rs. 16,347 crore (approximately $ 2.55 billion) for the five-year event hosting rights. Chennai Super Kings overcame the ignominy of being banned in the previous two versions by winning against Sunrisers Hyderabad by eight wickets in the final to redeem their past glory.
The 12th season of the IPL was again under the shadow of the parliamentary elections. However after much deliberations, BCCI got the nod to hold the event in the country from March 23 to May 12. This event again turned out to be a thriller as Mumbai Indians managed to hold off the fighting spirit of Chennai Super Kings and their skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni to clinch victory by the narrowest margins of one run at Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium, Hyderabad. Thus Mumbai Indians became the owners of the IPL Trophy for the fourth time in 12 editions of the event.