UAE set for cricket's 'pinnacle' after IPL receives Indian government clearance to host 2020 edition in country

The tournament is scheduled to be held in Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi from September 19 to November 10

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The 2020 Indian Premier League (IPL) will be held in the UAE after the Indian cricket board received government clearance to host the tournament outside the country.

The Indian board was waiting for clearance from Indian ministries of home and external affairs.

IPL chairman Brijesh Patel said he is confident the UAE will turn out to be the perfect hosts.

"We are very confident. The UAE has the infrastructure. They have hosted many international matches, and not just the IPL," Patel told The National.

The tournament is scheduled to be held in Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi from September 19 to November 10.

The Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) said it was looking forward to hosting the biggest cricketing event in its history.

Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of Tolerance and Chairman of the ECB, said: “We feel extremely privileged to host what could be considered the pinnacle-event of our favourite sport. The magnitude of being in a position to bring the IPL to the vast cricket-loving global community, during current events which have greatly impacted our daily lives, is one we take with extreme importance.

“This is undoubtedly the highest-profile cricketing event to be held in the UAE and our team will continue to support all facets [of the tournament] and work toward delivering a successful event for the enjoyment of all sports-fans; here in the UAE, in India and across the world.”

After receiving official approval, the governing bodies in India and the UAE can now begin the task of finalising the infrastructure and protocols to hold the event in a biosecure environment.

The franchises have already started preparing for the trip. The eight teams, with Indian players, are planning to leave for the UAE after August 20 following mandatory Covid-19 tests. Players will undergo three Covid-19 tests in India and three tests after arrival in the UAE. Regular tests are planned throughout the tournament.

Apart from the logistics involved in shifting the tournament to another location, the franchises and Indian board also have to contend with the loss of the tournament's title sponsor.

Chinese mobile phone company Vivo and the IPL decided to "suspend their partnership" for this year.

The five-year deal was worth around $68 million (Dh250m) per year and that formed a big source of income for the franchises, a little under $3m for each team. The BCCI is now looking for new sponsors who can plug the financial hole.

However, IPL chief Patel said commercial interest in the tournament remains high as it will soon be the festive season in India.

"There is a lot of interest as this will also be the festival season [in India]. There is Dussehra and Diwali, and the [new title] rights will go on until Christmas. This year is also going to be huge because people want to see live cricket," Patel added.

The IPL was scheduled to take place in March, but was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, once the T20 World Cup – which was to be played in October and November in Australia – was postponed, the IPL got the window to hold this year's edition by moving the competition to the UAE.

The UAE has prior experience of hosting the IPL having staged part of the tournament in 2014 when it coincided with India's general elections. On that occasion, the stadiums were packed with fans, but the 2020 edition will take on a much different feel in the absence of supporters.