The world's glitziest, most lucrative cricket league will launch its seventh season in the capital next month. The Indian Premier League (IPL) will kick off at the Sheikh Zayed stadium in Abu Dhabi on April 16 with a match between the defending champions Mumbai Indians and Kolkatta Knight Riders.
That, the IPL announced after a meeting in Chennai on Wednesday, will be the first of 20 matches – a third of the entire season – in the UAE. The league will run in the country until April 30 and the matches will be played across Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah.
Five of the 15 playing days during which the IPL will make the UAE its home will feature double-headers, with most pegged for weekends. The early games on those days will start at 2.30pm (UAE time) and the evening matches at 6.30pm. On the other 10 days, single games will be played at 6.30pm.
The 20 games have been distributed fairly evenly across the three major venues in the country. Dubai’s Sports City stadium will host seven games; Sheikh Zayed stadium in the capital will also host seven while Sharjah will see the remaining six games.
Abu Dhabi and Dubai will have two double-header days while Sharjah will have one.
Ticket prices for the games are expected to begin at Dh25, with the aim, organisers said, of creating the energy of a full house at every match, in part for the benefit of television viewers, a number which could approach three billion, putting it in the same range as the 2010 Fifa World Cup.
The approximately 300,000 tickets for the 20 matches will go on sale no later than next week. According to the schedule all eight IPL franchises will play at least once in each of the three designated UAE host cities.
A launch event is also expected to be held in Abu Dhabi on April 15, the night before the season begins.
The IPL has moved out of India for the second time in its short existence. As with the first time, when it was played in entirety in South Africa in 2009, upcoming general elections in India are the cause. Those are to be held over nine phases, beginning on April 7 and running right through to May 12.
As they did in 2009, the dates clash has meant that states will not be able to provide enough security staff for matches as they will be needed to oversee polling.
At one stage, this season potentially could have been played in three countries. After the UAE leg, the league could have moved to Bangladesh. But that possibility lessened on Wednesday, after the BCCI released a statement believing the IPL could shift back to India in early May.
“Many State Governments have indicated that IPL matches can be conducted in their respective states,” the statement said. “Based on the responses received so far, the BCCI believes that the Pepsi IPL 2014 can be conducted in India from the first week of May.
“The schedule for the remaining 40 matches will be announced in due course.” The league ends on June 1.
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