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IPL cricket set to kick off in UAE

MUMBAI: The delayed season of the Indian Premier League will kick off in the United Arab Emirates on Saturday with a clash between defending champions Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings.

The 2020 edition was originally scheduled to begin on 29th March in India but was postponed indefinitely due to worsening coronavirus pandemic. The cancellation would have caused a potential $534 million loss in revenue, forcing the cricket board BCCI to shift the tournament out of India.

The postponement of this year’s Twenty20 World Cup in Australi presented a window in the international cricket calendar for the league attended by most of the world’s top players.

The matches will be held in bio-secure bubbles in Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi in front of empty stands. Organisers are hoping to allow some fans during the later stages of the tournament which will end on 10th November.

BCCI chief Sourav Ganguly said organising the event was an attempt to bring normality to people’s life in India, which has been battered by the virus with over five million cases.

“Crowds will watch it on television … they (broadcasters) are actually expecting the highest rating of IPL this season because they believe if (people) don’t turn up in the ground, they will be watching on their television sets,” former India captain Ganguly said. “There is a positive in everything.”

This is is not the first time that the competition has had to be held outside India. The 2009 edition took place in South Africa as it coincided with India’s general elections, while the UAE hosted early matches five years later for the same reason.

There will be some notable absentees at this year’s event. The English duo of Chris Woakes and Jason Roy, Sri Lanka pace spearhead Lasith Malinga and the Indian pair of Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh have pulled out of the tournament citing personal reasons.

The Mumbai Indians led by Rohit Sharma, who beat Chennai by one run in last year’s final to win their fourth title in seven years, is once again the team to beat.

Chennai, led by charismatic captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, will have to find a way to compensate for the absence of experienced Raina and Harbhajan if they are to win a fourth title.

Captained by India skipper Virat Kohli, Royal Challengers Bangalore remains one of the three existing franchises never to have won the tournament.

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