After months of speculation and uncertainty surrounding the future of the Indian Premier League which was originally set to begin on 29th March but was postponed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic has finally been officially announced once again for its 13th edition. For the first time in the 12-year history, the tournament will be played outside its traditional April-May summer window with the first game scheduled to be held on September 19 and the final on the 10th of November.
Along with the change in dates also came a change in venue for the cash-rich league. Owing to the rising COVID-19 cases in the country, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) decided to shift the entire tournament to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Unlike 2014 when the Middle East nation hosted the tournament for the first half, this year the Emirati Cricket Board will play host to the entire tournament and that too under challenging circumstances. Similar to 2014, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah will be the host cities for all 60 matches with no spectators being allowed initially but might be at a later stage if conditions seem favourable.
Also keeping the COVID-19 pandemic in mind the BCCI has set a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for every team to ensure the tournament concludes without any hiccups. According to the SOPs, each team member and support staff will have to return 2 COVID-19 negative tests before flying to the UAE. After their arrival, they will again be subject to 3 tests over a period of 6 days. If all tests are returned negative the player will enter the bio-secure bubble of his respective team which he will be a part of during the entire tournament. Also, during the course of the tournament players will be tested every 5th day with any player testing positive for the virus being quarantined for the next 2 weeks. For further precautions, every team will be placed in a different hotel to ensure players remain inside their bio-secure bubble.
So, with the implementation of such strict health protocols and a complete change in playing field let’s take a look at how have the fortunes changed for the 8 franchises ahead of the 2020 IPL season:
MUMBAI INDIANS- the defending champions of the league shall remain favourites once again for the 13th edition. Although they had a very poor season last time in the UAE losing all their 5 matches, things have changed considerably for the Rohit Sharma and his men who have one of the most balanced squads in the IPL. The only thing concerning MI should be their lack of depth in the spin unit considering the spin-friendly pitches UAE has on offer.
CHENNAI SUPER KINGS- just like their arch-rivals Mumbai Indians, the Chennai Super Kings haven’t been affected greatly by the recent changes. The team would be looking to win the championship for the 4th time this season. With an extremely balanced, top-class spin unit at their disposal the CSK team could be a huge threat to many sides and one which has highly benefitted from the recent change in venues.
SUNRISERS HYDERABAD- the 2016 champions have managed to yet put again another extremely balanced squad for this year’s IPL. However, they will be at a disadvantage compared to other teams as 2 of their key players- David Warner and Jonny Bairstow will be missing the 1st week of the tournament due to national duty. Both players were clinical for the SRH side last season and their absence will surely hurt the SRH side in the first few games.
RAJASTHAN ROYALS- After a disappointing last season, the RR owners spent money cautiously to put in place a well-balanced squad. However recent circumstances have caused lots of changes in the team’s fortunes combined with the fact that most of the key players including captain Steve Smith won’t be available for the initial matches. The RR playing 11 is also heavily dependent on their key English and Aussie stars and without capable replacements, for these positions, the Rajasthan Royals are set to have a tough outing in this year’s IPL.
DELHI CAPITALS- Another team looking to better their performance from last season would be the team from the capital who made it to the playoffs last year for the first time in 7 years. With the team heavily built around Indian players, the DC side doesn’t have a lot to worry about except keeping their key players injury-free and with most of their players out of match practice it would the Delhi side a few matches before they hit the ground running.
KINGS XI PUNJAB- if any team could have the fondest memories from their previous outing in the UAE then it would be the KXIP franchise who are undefeated in the middle east. However, the KXIP line-up has changed drastically from 2014 and they are not really a balanced side on paper. Their only positive could be having Glenn Maxwell in their side who was their star player in the UAE in 2014. Yet he will be missing out the first week of the tournament due to national duty but the Punjab based team will be still heavily reliant on him to win games throughout the season.
ROYAL CHALLENGERS BANGLORE- the 2016 finalists will once again be entering the tournament in search of their 1st IPL trophy. The RCB side has improved greatly when compared to last season with good choices for each role available, unlike last season. However, the team will be still dependent heavily on skipper Virat Kohli to deliver with the bat if they are to pose a serious title challenge this year.
KOLKATA KNIGHT RIDERS- the 2-time IPL winners did some heavy trimming to their side during the retention window by letting go long-serving players such as Robin Uthappa and Piyush Chawla. The KKR side doesn’t look very balanced on paper either with their auction signings not being very impressive. Further adding to their misery would be Pat Cummins, their lead bowler who will be missing the first week of the competition due to national duty with the Australian side. With not a very promising side and inexperience a major factor the KKR side will have a lot of hard work to do if they have to make it to the playoffs.
For the first time in IPL history, it will be played in such an extreme and controlled environment. Also, most of the players have been without match practice which makes it difficult to have an absolute favourite for this year’s tournament. Nevertheless, the IPL is a major source of entertainment in this cricket dominated country and as it returns for 13th season it’s also expected to bring back the drama, thrill and the nail-biting finishes which have been its defining blocks of success for more than a decade.