For many who were part of the Indian Premier League in the United Arab Emirates last September-November, it was the preferred destination to host the 2021 edition as well.
Having successfully organized IPL 2020, it was felt the Indian cricket board must avoid any risk given the raging pandemic in the country. Hosting IPL in India was fraught with risk and the worst fears have come true with the event "postponed" midway after players and squad members from at least three teams tested positive.
Former India wicket-keeper Surinder Khanna, who was in the IPL governing council last year as the representative of the Indian Cricketers' Association said he would have tried to convince BCCI to stick to the Gulf destination as "the strictness and discipline in the UAE can't be matched."
"This is not to blame anybody," he said. "In these few months, the situation has become worse, not better. Even if you look at the financial angle "will your profits double by conducting it here?"" asked Khanna, who was Player-of-the-Tournament in the first ODI tournament, Asia Cup, held in Sharjah in 1984.
The initial phase of the tournament passed off smoothly in India too with matches staged in Mumbai and Chennai. It was when the IPL caravan moved to the next stops in Delhi and Ahmedabad that the bio-bubble burst. It showed the risk and vulnerability of a caravan-style bio-bubble.
"Why it (bio-bubble) was successful in United Arab Emirates is because the teams were staying at one hotel from start to finish, in Abu Dhabi or Dubai. They were playing matches only at three grounds, and all the people were in the bio-bubble," said Khanna, a former India A and Delhi Ranji Trophy coach.
"What have we done here? We shifted the bio-bubble, taking it to different venues. Immediately after that, the cases have started coming.
"You have brought the matches to Delhi. What is the condition in Delhi? I wish I was on IPL GC, I would have convinced them. "If you want to host in India, Mumbai is the place. You have three grounds, Wankhede Stadium, DY Patil and Brabourne. In case you need another ground, you can go to Pune, like we were driving from Dubai to Abu Dhabi-120-130 miles," said Khanna.
The ruling families set the example in the UAE. "All credit to the royal family members, when the Sheikhs used to come, they never came with mask below the nose, always mask up. So, from the top discipline was there. He set an example and everyone followed. Everything was strictly followed. Teams would go for training in the bus and everyone had to wear a mask."
There was not a single case during the tournament after a few tested positive at the start. "I was out of the bio-bubble for two months, still there was no positive over there. I was getting myself tested as per the schedule."
One of the reasons for not considering UAE again was the harsh summer in the Gulf. "When we played the final of the first-ever international one-day tournament, it was on April 13 and it was a day match. The current players are fitter and the IPL games are night games when the weather is cooler," said Khanna.
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