A group of English counties have combined to make an offer to host the remainder of this season’s Indian Premier League from mid-September.
The MCC, Surrey, Warwickshire and Lancashire have written to the ECB inviting them to offer to use their grounds – Lord's, The Kia Oval, Edgbaston and Emirates Old Trafford – to host the remainder of the IPL, which was suspended earlier this week due to Covid-19.
England’s Test series with India ends on September 14 and it is hoped that the IPL could be played from September 16 and ideally be completed by the end of the month. The fact that leading Indian players will already be in the country for the Test series is considered crucial, as they would not then have to face travel and possible quarantine to an alternative venue such as the UAE. The number of grounds in England, and the already sizeable interest in the IPL in the country, are also factors in England’s favour.
Among those involved in the discussions there is a desire that the tournament should not run into October. With six of the eight IPL teams still needing to play another seven group games – before up to three in the play-offs – this means that matches would need to be played in an extremely intense schedule involving two or even three games a day. A total of 31 more IPL games need to be played.
But sources involved in the IPL suggested that the UAE remained the favoured option to host the remainder of the tournament if – as seems likely – it could not be played in India. “The chances of rain disrupting is high at the end of September and I don’t think the BCCI will take a chance again now,” said one insider.
Another complication is that England are due to tour Bangladesh and Pakistan for limited-overs series immediately prior to the T20 World Cup.
But whichever option the IPL eventually choose will cause new strains on the cricket calendar. If the remainder of the tournament is held in the UAE, that risks the pitches becoming slower and less conducive to run-scoring before the T20 World Cup, which is increasingly likely to be played in the UAE in October.
The T20 World Cup is set to begin on October 16 or 17, and run until November 14. Teams normally arrive for World Cups at least a week in advance.
An alternative option is to reschedule the remainder of the IPL for the second half of November, immediately after the T20 World Cup. But this would be sure to jeopardise the availability of England and Australian players, who will be preparing for the Ashes, which will begin in early December.
An ECB spokesperson said: “We speak to the BCCI regularly about tours and other matters and we’ll continue doing so, but we have received no indication that they are looking for alternative hosts for the IPL at the moment.”