As per the sources, Mumbai could be hosting matches as early as the coming weekend. Relocating the IPL to Mumbai has emerged as a serious option for the BCCI as it looks to minimise the risks after Covid-19 related cases were reported from the bio-bubbles in both Ahmedabad and Delhi, two of the venues currently hosting the tournament.
There is also a likelihood of the IPL final being moved from May 30 to early June. The biggest challenge for the BCCI in making its Mumbai plan work is to create the IPL bubble, which mainly entails finding hotels for the eight teams to be housed in and preparing the stadia. Luckily, in terms of match fitness, all the three key grounds in Mumbai – Wankhede, DY Patil and Brabourne – were utilised during the first leg of the IPL in April.
While the Wankhede hosted 10 IPL matches, the other two grounds, and the Mumbai Cricket Association’s ground in the Bandra-Kurla Complex, were used by various teams for training purposes.
It is understood that the BCCI team made calls on Monday to various big hotels in Mumbai to verify if they were capable of satisfying the various SOPs needed to create a team bubble. No BCCI and IPL official was available for comment. Franchises, too, have not heard of the plan formally, but some say they will not be surprised if the Mumbai plan was acted on.
It would mean ditching the two-venue caravan model and reverting to the BCCI’s original plan, when it was working out the IPL schedule, of having Mumbai as the hub. The schedule eventually released, on March 7, had six venues – Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai. Chennai and Mumbai hosted the first leg while the second leg is being played currently in Ahmedabad and Delhi.
The IPL’s next stage is meant to be in Bengaluru and Kolkata, from next week. However, with India being enveloped by a second wave of the pandemic and the first cases emerging of the IPL bubble being breached, franchises, players and even some within the BCCI remain concerned about the pitfalls involved in travelling.
When the IPL began, Mumbai was the worst-affected metro in India, with almost 10,000 new cases every day. It is now acknowledged that a corner has been turned in this respect – Monday’s case count was 2,662, the lowest daily tally since March 17. It was a steep drop from a month ago – 11,163 covid-19 cases on April 4, the highest-ever number in the pandemic.
The impact on the WTC final
If the IPL is stretched beyond May 30, it is bound to potentially have an impact on the World Test Championship final, between India and New Zealand in Southampton from June 18-22. With the UK recently blocking travel from India, the ICC, the WTC host, is currently negotiating quarantine norms and exemptions with the British government for the members of both teams who are currently playing in the IPL.
One BCCI official, though, pointed out that moving the IPL to Mumbai could offer the advantage of the Indian and New Zealand players flying direct to England instead of the potential two-leg journey if the IPL final were to be played in Ahmedabad, as scheduled.