Rajeev Shukla, the former Indian Premier League (IPL) chairman, said the UAE could be considered as the host for the 2021 edition of the cash-rich league if there was no improvement in the Covid-19 situation in India.
Recently, Sourav Ganguly, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president, sounded confident that the country would be able to host the next edition of the cash-rich league in ‘March-April’ next year.
Shukla echoed Ganguly’s sentiment, before adding that the tournament would only be moved out of India if the Covid-19 situation in the world’s second most populous country remained in the danger zone.
“That (moving the 2021 IPL) will depend on the Covid situation in March and April in India. Our first priority is always India. If we are not able to host it in India, then only other options will be considered. So obviously after India, the UAE is the second most important priority. If the board is not able to host the IPL in India for any reason, the second best priority will always be the UAE,” Shukla told Khaleej Times during an interview in Dubai on Tuesday.
It was due to the disturbing rise in the Covid-19 cases in India that had forced the BCCI to bring the 2020 edition of the IPL to the UAE shores.
And Shukla doffed his hat to the UAE for safely hosting the world’s richest T20 tournament amid a raging pandemic.
“We are really delighted to accomplish this task. This time it was very difficult to organize the IPL. And the BCCI was clear that there should not be any discontinuation. So there were two options, one was the UAE and other was Sri Lanka. Of course, India was the priority, but the Covid-19 situation was such that you know every state — Maharashtra, West Bengal, Delhi, all the major IPL centres — were struggling. Finally it was decided to have it in the UAE because they have got three stadiums, plenty of hotels, top-class infrastructure,” Shukla said.
“Also we had hosted the first half of the 2014 IPL here. So it was an easy decision to make. Now we are happy that the IPL is a big success this year despite the Covid situation. This tournament was organized without spectators. So this experiment was also successful. We have got the best TV ratings and everybody liked it.
“All the fans back home are watching these matches and they are highly satisfied. I think it has definitely provided a boost to the economy of the UAE as well. So congratulations to the BCCI and the Emirates Cricket Board, the UAE government and the government of India which gave our cricket board the permission to host the tournament outside the country and to all the franchises and the stakeholders. Also, all the cricket boards provided their players for the IPL. And especially, I would like to thank the UAE government for their support.”
Shukla admitted that there had been discussions within the BCCI about adding two more teams to the IPL in the future.
“There is a proposal. Earlier also we had 10 teams (2011). So there has been a talk, but nothing has been decided on that now. Last time we had 10 teams, there were 74 matches. So obviously the season will be longer. But we have to take the opinion of the broadcasters, sponsors and all the stakeholders,” he said.
Apart from giving a great platform to youngsters to showcase their talent, the IPL, according to Shukla, has also helped the BCCI develop the cricket infrastructure in India,
“The budding talent is getting identified, they are getting opportunities. And by performing well (in the IPL), they get an opportunity to represent India. It also boosts our economy. The tournament has also helped us build top-class infrastructure. It’s helping a lot to build top-class stadiums and other facilities,” he said.
Shukla also revealed that one of the big ambitions of the BCCI is to take the IPL to different parts of the country.
“Guwahati (Assam, in northeast of India) was scheduled to host two matches this year. But, as you know, the tournament was eventually moved out of India due to the Covid crisis. So, yes, we are trying to take the IPL to each and every part of the country!”
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