Hyderabad: All the euphoria that is usually associated with the start of a new IPL season is missing this year, thanks to the dreaded Covid-19 that is casting a shadow over the richest cricket tournament. Instead there is a lot of uncertainty and nervousness.
The IPL-14 begins from Friday with defending champions Mumbai Indians taking on Royal Challengers Bangalore at Chennai but the BCCI, the eight franchises and the players are sitting on the edge as dark clouds in the form of Covid-19 are hovering over the tournament.
The BCCI has taken a big gamble of pulling it off amid the second wave of Covid-19 crisis and has not hinted of any plans to move the tournament to the UAE like they did it last year. The IPL-13 in the UAE went uninterrupted though it was held in the month of September and October.
This time the BCCI took the courage to host the IPL in India because of their successful England series at home in all the three formats. Even it allowed 50 per cent attendance after the first Test in the four-Test series. The T20 series saw a near full house at Narendra Modi Stadium before better sense prevailed to conduct the match without spectators.
Now this IPL-14 will be played in front of empty stadiums and also only it will be played in six venues — Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bengaluru. Ahmedabad and Delhi. Cities like Hyderabad and Mohali were given a skip although Hyderabad and Indore have been named as stand-bye venues. There will be 56 matches in the league phase and there will be no home advantage to any of the franchises. All the playoff matches, including the final, will be held in Ahmedabad.
However, the tournament had a few nervous moments like the 12 groundsman testing Covid-19 positive at Wankhede Stadium and players like Delhi Capitals’ Axar Patel, Devdutt Padikkal, Daniel Sams (both Royal Challengers Bangalore) and Nitish Rana (Kolkata Knight Riders) too testing positive. However, Padikkal and Rana have since tested negative.
The bio-secure is a challenge. Sunrisers Hyderabad mentor VVS Laxman said the players have taken it in the right spirit. All the teams went through the mandatory seven-day quarantine.
For five-time champions Mumbai Indians, who will be looking for a hat-trick of titles, it is a big opening match as they face a new-look Royal Challengers Bangalore, who have bolstered their team with a few interesting additions like Glenn Maxwell and Kyle Jamieson and others.
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