Major sporting events across the world have seen huge changes over the past few months in order to ensure regular play can be achieved again and the IPL is no different - although some of the changes being made are expected, others are certainly a little surprising to some fans. So what are the rule changes and what should be expected?
New date, new location
Initially set to get underway earlier this year, the half a year delay is nearly over as we’re just a few weeks out from the IPL returning, hopefully settled into its new temporary home - Abu Dhabi. This isn’t the first big sporting event finding its home move to the UAE as combat sport giant the UFC had done the same a little earlier in the year and there are certainly the facilities to allow the move to be successful.
The league will run from September 19th to November 10th – with temperatures currently sunny between high 30° and low 40°.
Sanitation and Health and Safety
As expected, player safety will take huge precedence and methods of ensuring player safety have risen to the top of the list. Social distancing measures have been put in place as with every other major sporting event to reduce the risk of any potential outbreaks. This is to ensure a safe environment for players and all involved in the running of the events.
Other measures of minimising contact and hygiene have been put in place too as teams will no longer be allowed to share equipment and the basics of wearing a mask will be mandatory - this does come with the caveat that players will have to follow these rules, but with such high stakes and the delay already lasting for so long a lot of attention is likely to be paid to this.
A smaller squad
In order to meet many of the restrictions being placed and the hygiene rules to ensure safety, teams have been asked to cut a player from their competing squad throughout the tournament - this year only 24 players will be allowed as opposed to the 25 from last year.
This isn’t a total surprise however as similar methods have been approached across all sports to meet similar requirements - football for example saw an additional two substitutions allowed to prevent injury amidst a faster schedule after the longer layoff.
Similar changes have also been put in place for the team’s training schedules too now - in order to keep social distancing and hygiene requirements in place, teams will now be split into smaller congregations and training will be staggered to keep contact low.
Maintaining a two meter distance at all times may be difficult in both training and regular play, but teams will endeavour to do so as much as possible to reduce risks.
As mentioned, whilst the players won’t be in a completely bio-secure environment this doesn’t mean that there isn’t going to be a lot of controlled places in the player environment where possible. Player health will be constantly tested and a regular COVID test will likely be required both before and after game day. Player rooms will also be monitored with temperatures being kept between 24-30 degrees and all common areas being left unlocked and open to avoid constant contact.
Fans should expect to face some changes too as they will not be allowed to attend the games at the stadium - those looking to watch the game will have to rely on live streaming. The event matches will be broadcast across the Star Sports Network for regular television viewers or available on Disney+ Hotstar for others, while Jio customers will be able to watch the games for free
It may also provide an opportunity in disguise for punters - the different environment and different rule set could impact team performance and upset some bookies odds, with IPL betting in India already so high we may see some wildcard results with the few lucky players winning big can really set the bar for the big winners after such a long delay.
Either way, it’s going to be an interesting few weeks, whilst the UAE are the safest place for the event to be hosted there are still plenty of hurdles to overcome between now and the start - teams should be arriving over the next few days and with any luck there won’t be any bad news along the way, and then it will just be looking ahead to smooth sailing over the weeks that follow - we’ve already seen how a team can be affected with the likes of Jofra Archer and the UK test series issue that was fast just a few weeks ago.