The 2021 Indian Premier League (IPL 2021) will be staged from April 9 to May 30 across six venues with no teams getting to play at home. The league will begin with defending champions Mumbai Indians facing Royal Challengers Bangalore in Chennai on April 9.
While releasing the schedule on Sunday, the IPL Governing Council confirmed that the matches -- at least the initial phase of the tournament -- will be held without fans in attendance.
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Interestingly, Mumbai has also been named as one of the venues despite the city being in the grips of a sudden surge in Covid-19 cases. As per reports, Mumbai was allotted matches after the Maharashtra government assured full cooperation to ensure fail-proof implementation of safety protocols in and around the stadium (Wankhede) as well as the biosecure bubble that would be set up for the teams.
The other venues are Ahmedabad (Motera), Bengaluru (Chinnaswamy Stadium), Chennai (MA Chidambaram Stadium), Delhi (Ferozshah Kotla) and Kolkata (Eden Gardens. The final as well as the playoffs will be played at the Motera with the organisers hoping that by then the pandemic situation would be subdued enough to let the fans fill up (at least partially) the largest cricket stadium in the world.
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The BCCI has released only a partial schedule -- matches in the first four weeks of the league (till May 6). 33 matches will be played in the period across the five venues with Kolkata not allotted any game at this phase due to the state assembly elections in Bengal.
Each team is set to play at four venues in the league stage. Out of the 56 matches, Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bengaluru will host 10 matches each while Ahmedabad and Delhi will host eight each.
"One of the highlights of this edition of the IPL will be the fact that all matches will be played at neutral venues, no team will play at their home venue. All teams will play at 4 out of 6 venues during the league stage," read the IPL statement.
"The fixtures of the tournament have been mapped in a way that every team will travel only three times during the league stage, thus reducing commute and minimising risk.
"The VIVO IPL this year at home will be played behind closed doors to begin with and a call on allowing spectators will be taken at a later stage of the tournament," the statement added.
However, the idea of neutral venues have not gone down well with some of the franchises. Reports suggest that many feel the move is pointless since there won’t be any fans in the stadiums and hence no distinct home advantage.
Sources in the BCCI, however, have been quoted that the decision to host matches in neutral venues was made to ensure that the local teams don’t use their influence for preparing wickets that suit their style of play or team composition.
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Murmurs over neutral venues will be the least of the concerns for the organisers though. With matches in six venues -- as opposed to players staying in a single hotel in the UAE in the 2020 edition -- the likelihood of bubble breaches is that much higher. Teams would be required to travel between venues and that would create logistical nightmares for the BCCI as well as the medical team in charge of maintaining the bubbles.
There will be a total of 11 double headers where six teams will play three afternoon matches and two teams will play two afternoon matches. The afternoon games are slated for a 3:30pm start while the evening games will have a 7:30pm start.
(With inputs from PTI)
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