Mumbai, and not Jaipur, will host the inaugural match of the 2009 Indian Premier League (IPL). That is one of the many revisions that took place while altering the schedule of the tournament that had hit the roadblock following the Home Ministry’s concern over security arrangements.
While the dates for the tournament to begin and conclude continue to remain within the frame as earlier – from April 10 – May 24 – the entire itinerary within this 44-day calendar has been tweaked and twisted so as to meet everybody’s requirement.
By everybody, an official in the IPL meant-the concerned ministries, police and civic authorities, franchise owners, the election commission, state associations of the BCCI and so on.
“It’s been a cumbersome process,” a visibly fatigued Lalit Modi informed on Friday even as the International Management Group (IMG), the IPL’s strategizing arm, continued to work on the schedule until late in the evening.
However, for cricket fans, the good news is that the IPL is on and according to Modi, “there is no question of the tournament moving to any other country or being cancelled or postponed.”
In a statement read out from a small piece of paper in his hand, Modi categorically thanked P Chidambaram, the home minister, “for his clarifications”, which suggested that the BCCI-IPL combine had already spent a great deal of time and effort trying to convince the minister and jotting down recommendations to be brought in the schedule.
For instance, there will be no IPL match on May 16, the day of counting for Lok Sabha elections. That the home minister himself did an about turn from his earlier statements and said on Friday, “we are not against holding the IPL and I never said that the tournament should be postponed,” was another positive step in the direction of the tournament being held smoothly.
A total of 14 cities have been made available, keeping the election dates in mind. Nagpur, the hometown of BCCI president Shashank Manohar, could now play host to three of Team Jaipur’s matches after it was learnt that the police authorities in Rajasthan had raised objections to a certain number of matches on specific dates because of the upcoming elections, Ahmedabad is being touted as a possible venue for some of Team Kolkata and Team Chennai matches.
If security was talked about as the main concern for the tournament to be held, Modi clarified those doubts saying “we are fully prepared on security and will have a detailed briefing next week.”
The South Africa based Nicholls Steyn and Associates are one of the few international security firms that the IPL has already roped in to ensure a smooth tournament.
At the BCCI office in Mumbai, officials of the IPL and the IMG spent the entire day in front of a wall-size screen that displayed several logistical and central-security issues that needed immediate revision for the government to approve.
The five matches that directly clash with the election dates or are even being held a day before the polls in five different cities – Team Delhi vs Team Chennai (in Delhi on May 5), Team Kolkata vs Team Bangalore (in Kolkata on May 13), Team Hyderabad vs Team Delhi (in Hyderabad on April 16) and Team Mumbai vs Team Delhi (in Mumbai on April 28)-were the first to be dealt with.