Franchises will have access to a whopping 30 nets, including 16 brand new ones when they arrive in Abu Dhabi later this month to prepare for the delayed 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL).
The Zayed Cricket Stadium and its adjoining facilities are being spruced up for the popular T20 league which will be played in the UAE from September 19 to November 10. Prior to that, teams will touchdown in the country after August 20 to hold training camps ahead of the competition.
And Abu Dhabi, one of the three venues, apart from the Dubai International Cricket Stadium and the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, have already hit the ground running in terms of preparations.
"It is an incredible opportunity for the UAE," Matthew Boucher, CEO of Abu Dhabi Cricket, told the Khaleej Times.
"The Emirates Cricket Board has done a brilliant job together with the BCCI. Sorry, obviously to all the Indian fans that it can't take place in India but hopefully the UAE will do another wonderful hosting job with all 60 matches. So, we are looking forward to that next step and it is another great opportunity for UAE cricket," he added.
Boucher revealed that they had already begun work for the Abu Dhabi T10 League, which is penciled in for November, when news of the IPL came streaming in.
"From our perspective, before it became official, we were in preparation mode for the Abu Dhabi T10 from November 19 till the 28. A number of our event preparations have been accelerated now. We were working closely with the ECB on what the Standard Operating Procedures from the BCCI would look like. But currently we are in full preparation mode. We are painting fences, we are doing all the small attention to details that make Abu Dhabi Cricket a great place to host international events," said Boucher.
"So, we are certainly in full preparation mode and looking forward to the match schedule being announced and looking forward to really detailing in match by match requirements with those teams. Also, of course, we are coordinating with some of the franchises, together with the ECB, on any pre camps that might be coming to Abu Dhabi. So, it is sort of selection stage with the BCCI on what that would look like for Abu Dhabi Sports Council, Abu Dhabi Cricket, the hotels, the facilities with regards to franchises coming in for pre camp, which is again exciting to have some of the franchises in the Emirates in many weeks before hand," he explained.
Boucher also said that teams will have a full array of the facilities to make sure their preparations can go on without a hitch.
"In the last year, we have developed 16 new nets so we have a whole new international net campus. We have 16 brand new nets and they are ready for the IPL teams. We also have our cricket academy where eight of those nets will be available for use, which means 24 nets, together with both the squares of the playing surfaces, adding another six. So, it is a significant territory here and we have expanded it well. And we have expanded it with both international and community cricket in mind and it is moments like these where it is exciting and hopefully see some full utilization of the facilities," Boucher, who took over as the acting CEO in 2017 before taking up the post full time last year.
The IPL will be operated within a biosecure bubble and Boucher said that is being worked out with the various entities.
"Bio security is at the top of everybody's list, whether it is players, coaches, organization, management, television production, and even my own staff. First things first, we have to understand what the BCCI wants, it is their event. The ECB are playing hosts so it is very important, and we will also have to coordinate with our own authorities here. So, Abu Dhabi Cricket ourselves, we are governed by the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, we are a government facility, so that immediately means that we will fall under the Abu Dhabi Sports Council guidelines and the NCEMA (National Crisis & Emergency Management Authority) guidelines," he elaborated.
"So, everything that we will do from a hosting perspective, will be in partnership with the BCCI and the ECB on those management, organization and team-specific deliveries and then together with the Sports Council and the NCEMA Abu Dhabi with regards to the biosecurity of the venue. That will have to be approved by local government and we anticipate all of that starting in the coming days with regards to when the teams can train, how many teams can train and how many nets per team, the social distancing, the spacing, all of that is in process and the teams are waiting for those SOPs. So, I would say it is a two-element approach to that which is the BCCI and the ECB with regards to the playing conditions and the technical decisions and then with our own government authorities to what we are comfortable to deliver from our perspective here in Abu Dhabi," said Boucher, who is also the advisor to the Abu Dhabi Sports Council.
The UAE had hosted the first phase (20 matches) during the seventh edition in 2014, with Abu Dhabi being the venue for seven of those fixtures.
And although Boucher admitted that times are different, especially in a Covid world, he said that it is exciting to have more matches and also host the franchises for their camps.
"Certainly very different and three times as many matches as well. It is an incredible opportunity and you think that the legacy that the 2014 event hosted with only 20 matches and here we are with a full 48 days ( plus the team camps at our fingertips, it is an incredibly exciting time," he signed off.
THROWBACK TO IPL 2014: ABU DHABI
MATCHES PLAYED: 7
April 16: Kolkata Knight Riders vs Mumbai Indians
Kolkata Knight Riders won by 41 runs
April 18: Chennai Super Kings vs Kings XI Punjab
Kings XI Punjab won by 6 wickets
April 18: Sunrisers Hyderabad vs Rajasthan Royals
Rajasthan Royals won by 4 wickets
April 21: Chennai Super Kings vs Delhi Daredevils
Chennai Super Kings won by 93 runs
April 26: Royal Challengers Bangalore vs Rajasthan Royals
Rajasthan Royals won by 6 wickets
April 26: Kings XI Punjab vs Kolkata Knight Riders
Kings XI Punjab won by 23 runs
April 29: Rajasthan Royals vs Kolkata Knight Riders
Match tied: Rajasthan Royals won on boundary count
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