The popular Indian Premier League will begin on April 9, the country’s cricket board said Sunday, with organisers set to eschew crowds initially as coronavirus cases rise in India.
The world’s richest Twenty20 tournament was held in the United Arab Emirates in 2020, but its 14th edition this year will be played across six Indian venues.
“The IPL this year at home will be played behind closed doors to begin with and a call on allowing spectators will be taken at a later stage of the tournament,” Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) secretary Jay Shah said in a statement.
India, which has recorded more than 11.2 million coronavirus infections so far in a population of 1.3 billion, launched a mass vaccination drive in mid-January.
The Narendra Modi stadium — the world’s biggest cricket venue that recently hosted England — in Ahmedabad will host the playoffs as well as the final on May 30.
The eight teams will play all their matches at neutral venues.
Out of the 56 league matches, Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore will host 10 matches each, while Ahmedabad and Delhi will share eight games each.
“The BCCI is confident of hosting the IPL at home with health and safety of players and all people involved being paramount,” Shah said.
“The fixtures of the tournament have been mapped in a way that every team will travel only three times during the league stage, thus reducing commute and minimising risk.”
The league will kick off in Chennai with a clash between defending champions Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore.
South Africa all-rounder Chris Morris became the IPL’s most expensive player last month when Rajasthan Royals paid $2.25 million for him.
Chinese phone maker Vivo will return as the IPL’s lead sponsor after the deal was suspended last year following a deadly border clash between India and China.