IPL in the United Arab Emirates

The much-awaited Indian Premier League (IPL) got underway in United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Saturday. Apart from politics and Bollywood, it is cricket that is India’s lifeblood. It is India’s national game and favourite pastime. We can say ‘Cricket is an Indian game accidentally discovered by the English.’
Most of the best players in the world will be present in the UAE this autumn but cooped in eight different bio-bubbles with stringent restrictions. Apart from playing matches and training sessions, one would hardly get a chance to move out. It’s life in a cocoon. Needless to say, there will be no crowds at the three venues, at least for the major part of the tournament. It’s a far cry from the time when former Pakistan captain Asif Iqbal and local businessman Abdul Rahman Bukhatir joined hands to bring cricket to the desert, specifically Sharjah. Over the next two decades, it became the ‘neutral’ hub of India-Pakistan limited-overs cricket, thriving in a mix of cricket and celebrityhood as much as the passionate fans.
For the first time ever, the whole of the IPL would be played outside India — two earlier editions were played partly outside India due to the General Elections. The choice of the UAE to host the IPL is understandable, but also somewhat dismaying. The UAE seems to attract a lot of people interested in corrupting sport — just five days ago, the International Cricket Council (ICC) charged two UAE cricketers for accepting ‘bribe/gifts’ in order to fix matches. In April, the ICC banned Deepak Aggarwal, a Dubai-based owner of a T10 League franchise, for ‘obstructing or delaying an investigation’, following uncovering of corrupt practices in cricket.
The start of IPL means the sport in India is relevant. And to note that in an ambience of economic gloom BCCI has managed to rake in Rs 350 crore from sponsorship speaks volumes of the robustness of the IPL brand and its relevance for the Indian market. The IPL will provide the Emirates with a chance to regain the status of a bona fide major cricketing venue. The country is anyway host to a number of other elite sporting events, attracting some of the biggest names in the world.

- Prabhakar Purandare

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