All the teams started their desert safari on a cheerful note, but the United Arab Emirates (UAE) heat became a talking point on landing. While some Indian Premier League (IPL) players accepted that they will have to get used to it, others wished for fewer day games. The humidity doesn’t really drop in the evening. The wind is warm. The sun disappears around 7.30pm.
“We might have to play at least three day games, which will be hard. We have to get used to the heat, but I’m looking forward to the training at the ICC Academy in Dubai,” said one player.
“Just landed in Dubai and been welcomed by heat wave,” Sunrisers Hyderabad wicketkeeper-batsman Shreevats Goswami tweeted on landing.
AccuWeather suggests the temperature will fluctuate between 37 and 41 degrees Celsius during the course of the IPL. Most Indian cities have similar conditions in April-May — the usual IPL months — but the heat wave in the desert could be a challenge.
Quarantine, training and schedule
Most teams have hit the ground running after completing the mandatory quarantine period except Chennai Super Kings, of which 13 members, including players Deepak Chahar and Ruturaj Gaikwad, tested positive for Covid-19.
During the early quarantine phase, most of the players did their meet-and-greet sessions from their balconies. The hotel has been divided into three zones. The players and support staff, net bowlers and hotel staff are at a distance away from each other.
Delhi Capitals’ Shikhar Dhawan undergoes a Covid-19 test before leaving for the UAE. – PTI
Besides the temperature, the different travel rules in Dubai and Abu Dhabi caused a delay as the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is in talks with the authorities for smooth movement. However, Abu Dhabi Cricket chief executive Matt Boucher told Sportstar they will take all initiatives to ensure seamless travel for the teams travelling from Dubai.
From a fitness and agility point of view, most of the players look sharp, fit and raring to go. India superstar and Royal Challengers Bangalore captain Virat Kohli said, “It’s been five months since I picked up the bat, but it’s much better than expected, to be honest. It came out better than I thought. I am feeling quite fit and that helps. Your body is light and you can react better, so I have more time on the ball.”
Keeping a distance
“To stay inside the bubble, one has to ensure that the bubble doesn’t burst,” one franchise official joked when asked about the feeling of being inside the bubble. Jokes apart, in the new normal, the IPL authorities are taking all measures to ensure that the monitoring system works seamlessly.
The players and stakeholders who will be inside the bio-bubble will have to wear a special Bluetooth wristband with an alarm that will sound in case the 2m distance rule is breached. The players need to wear the band throughout and can only take it off when they hit the bed. Designed by the British company that prepared the bio-bubble for England’s home series against the West Indies and Pakistan, the band will not only help the franchises and the IPL authorities take note of the movement inside the bubble, but will also help them maintain protocols.
Even the family members of the players who have accompanied them to the UAE will have to wear the bands. Even while travelling from the hotels to the venues, the players will have to maintain social distancing inside the team bus. The players will have to keep one seat empty between them to ensure the distancing rule is maintained.
“It’s going to be difficult, there’s no doubt about that. No one’s perfect. We’ve seen with other protocols around the world and leagues that there have been some breaches. But first and foremost, we need to keep everyone safe and it’s been so far, so good,” Rajasthan Royals head coach Andrew McDonald said.
Cricket returns to Sharjah
From Javed Miandad’s last-ball six against India in 1986 to Sachin Tendulkar’s ‘Desert Storm’ against Australia in 1998, the iconic Sharjah Cricket Stadium has hosted many a cricketing classic.
But its decline started when match-fixing scandals emerged in the late 1990s, and in 2001 the Indian government banned the national side from playing there. Even though a few matches of IPL 2014 were held at the venue, it did not find many takers in terms of hosting big-ticket tournaments thereafter.
The last time Sharjah hosted a Test match was in November 2016, while the last international match was held in December 2019, when the UAE played Scotland.
However, after a hiatus, the venue will host quite a few IPL fixtures.
Cricket will be returning the Sharjah, the site of Sachin Tendulkar’s ‘Desert Storm’ against Australia in 1998, with IPL 2020. The last time Sharjah hosted a Test match was in November 2016, while the last international match was held in December 2019, when the UAE played Scotland. – V. V. Krishnan
Teams like the Rajasthan Royals have already started training there. “We have taken all the initiatives to ensure that the bio-bubble is maintained. The teams will have separate enclosures and all the facilities are being provided to them,” a veteran official at the Sharjah Cricket Council said.
Even though the cricketing fraternity in Sharjah awaits the return of big-ticket cricket, the BCCI’s Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) officials are on their toes to crack down on corrupt approaches. The board has tied up with overseas agencies to keep track of betting syndicates and bookies. “Since there have been instances in the past, we have to be careful and stay alert,” ACU chief Ajit Singh said.