The Indian Premier League (IPL) is all about drama, both on and off the field. However, a lot of drama has already unfolded even before the tournament has commenced.
As if 2020 wasn’t strange enough, fans will see their favourite teams battle it out in the scorching heat of the UAE. It would be the first time since 2014 that IPL will be played on foreign soil, and only the third time in its thirteen-season history (South Africa hosted the 2009 IPL).
With a relentless surge in the number of positive coronavirus cases in India, it was a clever decision to shift the tournament to another country. It would have been difficult to imagine a situation where the matches are being played inside the stadiums in India without letting the crowds attend the matches. The financial aspect needed to be considered as the maintenance of the pitch and the ground requires a lot of funding.
Without the crowds, the money earned through gate receipts is taken out of the equation entirely. Gate receipts are a good chunk of the money made by a sports association. It not only helps compensate for all the money spent on the maintenance, but also provides a good source for profits.
The invasion of the global pandemic, however, has put a spanner in the works of BCCI. Although they have averted a massive loss (around 4000 Crores) by organizing the tournament, they will still have to pay the Emirates Cricket Board a hefty fee, in addition to the accommodation and expenses of the players.
That’s pretty much everything that has happened off the field so far. What about the on-field proceedings? The pandemic has forbidden the gathering of mass crowds. Football returned in May/June, albeit with empty stands. Even the UEFA Champions League knockout matches were played without any audience.
As far as cricket is concerned, several bilateral series have been played in recent weeks. The West Indies Tour of England in July was a success, a first when it came to playing cricket without the crowd.
The ongoing series between England and Pakistan has continued that trend. With the virus still a force to be reckoned with, ensuring that the players play in a safe environment has reached the top of the priority list of ICC.
The IPL games will be played at three venues in the UAE – Dubai, Sharjah, and Abu Dhabi. BCCI wants an allowance of 30% of the capacity crowd for the games, while the UAE board is apprehensive and finds itself amidst a quandary.
The crowd is the 12th man in the IPL matches. You should ask any player of the Mumbai Indians about their experiences in the Wankhede Stadium. You will then know that having the support of thousands of fans in every situation, in every crisis, propels the team to unprecedented heights.
No matter where your team is inflicting a drubbing on the opposition or has their backs pinned against the wall, the support from the fans can go a long way in lifting the spirits of the team and make way out of a challenging situation in a match.
I am certain that the absence of crowd would feel like the absence of salt in food – lifeless. It’s like a musical concert without fans. There is no denying the fact that the appeal of the IPL goes hand-in-hand with the fiscal factor(s), but the supporters and fans of different teams bring an entirely different feel to the game and the tournament.
IPL has a global appeal, which is why it is the big gest franchise-cricket tournament on the planet. Players from West Indies, Australia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, England, New Zealand, Afghanistan etc participate in the tournament. This helps IPL get a decent amount of viewership from the aforementioned countries.
The pandemic has pulled the brakes on just about everything. We have been forced to stay put inside our homes. For the IPL, however, there’s a big upside to people staying at home.
The arrival of IPL would mean the return of Indian cricketers in action after almost 7-8 months. We, as Indians, are not used to seeing our players stay away from cricketing action for such a prolonged amount of time. Heck, even 7-8 weeks of no cricket can make the least passionate fanatics grow restless.
Viewership is bound to skyrocket during those 51 days of non-stop IPL action. The number of people staying at home is going to be greater than previous years. IPL 2020 can be breeding ground for advertising.
The amount of money earned by advertisers is directly proportional to the amount of people watching their televisions. It is perhaps also safe to assume that IPL 2020 might become one of the most-watched tournaments in T20 history.
Regardless of what happens, IPL is set to enlighten the world of cricket yet again, while also providing a glimmer of hope for things to improve. Organizing the IPL during these dire times is a step in the direction, not just for cricket, but for mankind in general. It will definitely serve as a reminder to naysayers that no matter what, life moves on and regularity will be restored eventually.