Cricket is a sport that binds people together, gives a glimmer of hope in the darkest of times. Such will be the impact of the Indian Premier League when it returns to the lives of cricket-crazy Indians at a time when mankind is up against one of its worst-possible crisis.
Ever since the arrival of 2020, the world is grappling with a virus that has wiped out over half-a-million people from the face of the earth in such a short period of time and is threatening to devastate the lives of many more. The human race is facing its biggest adversary in the novel coronavirus, which has so far crippled the most dominant species on the planet, and it continues to wreak havoc without a hint of budging. Lives have been lost, altered, and people have been thrown into the oblivion by this deadly virus.
With time, people have begun to adjust to the 'new normal', and so has cricket -- the series between England and West Indies showed as much. The series was historic as it was played on the backdrop of the world fighting against the pandemic. It made an impact on the lives of cricket fans across the world, giving them small moments of joy that they longed for.
With cricket coming to a standstill in the midst of the pandemic, fans who were used to a certain dose of cricketing action, were left with no option but to binge-watch on classics. With no live scorecard to track, no pre or post-match addas with friends, life was mundane. And the announcement of IPL has come as a breath of fresh air.
Following months of anticipation, the BCCI has finally received formal approval from the Indian government to conduct the league in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which is familiar territory for the Indian board. In 2014, the first phase of the IPL was held in the Gulf nation due to the matches coinciding with the 2014 general elections in India. This year, the tournament will be held from September 19 to November 10 in three cities -- Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. (Also Read | BCCI gets government's approval to host IPL 2020 in UAE, confirms League Chairman Brijesh Patel)
What paved the way for IPL was International Cricket Council's decision to postpone the World T20 2020, which was scheduled to be held in Australia, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It has been learned that the board is drawing up logistical and operational plans with the franchises to avoid any loopholes in staging a mega tournament on foreign land. The Emirates Cricket Board too has confirmed that it has received the formal clearance from the BCCI to host IPL 2020 in the UAE. (Also Read | IPL 2020: Emirates Cricket Board gets BCCI's official clearance to host tournament)
Officials and players from the eight franchises will start leaving for the UAE from August 20, and upon their arrival, all players and officials will be required to isolate themselves for at least six days before they can enter the bio-bubble. They will be tested thrice over six days, reported news agency PTI.
The BCCI is also mulling to allow some crowd to the venues in the UAE but even without the spectators on ground, the idea of hosting the tournament far exceeds not having it at all. In terms of revenue, the BCCI was expected to take a hit of around Rs 3000 crore if it failed to host the IPL this year. So, it is a win-win scenario for the board, the broadcasters, and the franchises if IPL kickstarts in the UAE. However, above all, it is a promising proposition for the fans to see their favourite stars back in action.
Over the years, the IPL has grown to become such an integral part of the cricket calendar that it is almost unfathomable for fans to imagine a year without the world's leading T20 league taking place. The months of April and May are bookmarked for the return of the mega tournament, which is celebrated almost like a festival in India. And so, even as the fans won't be able to take the streets and stadiums to decorate them with the franchise colours this time around, the return of the IPL helps evade the sense of despair which had gradually settled among the masses due to the pandemic.
The pandemic threw many challenges, but as they say - when there's a will, there's a way. The 2020 edition of the Indian Premier League is the initial step towards the sport's new world order but in essence, it's simply a reunion of a fan with the game they grew to love and care - more so in its complete absence.