With the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) set to be played in UAE, the franchises are working overtime when it comes to planning for non-match days. The sole reason is that unlike other seasons, players cannot go out of the hotel when they are not playing due to COVID-19 concerns. Moreover, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is yet to give the green signal for teams to get their immediate family to UAE during the course of the tournament.
Speaking to IANS, an official of one of the franchises said that player engagement on non-match days is high on agenda for all teams this year as they cannot leave the team hotels and will have to remain indoors.
"It is an area of focus for sure. In fact, I would say this is the biggest challenge this year. When you realise that the boys will be restricted for close to two months, you need to also provide them with options. Xbox and virtual gaming facilities will rule the roost. Don't be too surprised if they play more FIFA than cricket in these two months of IPL (laughs).
"Also, fussball is something that is big among players as is pool and table tennis. You cannot just brief the players and tell them that do not step out. You need to create an atmosphere where the players are excited to hit the team room and engage among themselves on non-match days," the official explained.
Echoing similar sentiments, another official said that planning is already on to hit a new level when it comes to being creative with the team room.
"See, watching movies on NetFlix and all is fine. But that you can do even in your own room. We need to work on things we can do out of the box to engage the players. It will be a challenge for sure, especially if the families are not travelling with the team. This is something that we will get to know in the next few days from the BCCI. We do have a meeting planned with them post the IPL Governing Council meeting on Sunday," the official said.
It is believed that franchises have requested the BCCI to allow immediate families to travel with the players and support staff, but in batches and not for the whole duration of the tournament.
"See, the best part about UAE is that if you have a negative COVID-19 report, you do not need to go into quarantine. So, a few franchises have requested for the players to be allowed to have their wife or girlfriend come in for a small duration. They are not asking for a two-month permission, but more of a say 10-12 days go-ahead. After all, these are trying times and nothing beats having your near and dear ones around. Hopefully a call on the same will be taken in the IPL GC on Sunday," an official of an IPL franchise in the know of developments said.