Phase 2 of the Indian Premier League (IPL) is set to start on September 19 at the iconic UAE venue Sharjah Cricket Stadium. This stadium has been a popular and exciting cricket venue worldwide and this year, it will be hosting a total of 10 IPL matches including the eliminations and qualifying rounds.
It was in May when the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has made a unanimous decision to suspend the remainder of the IPL season which started in March because of the rising COVID-19 cases in India. This was where the initial venue of the current IPL season was but it was later on decided that the rest of the IPL matches would have to be held elsewhere.
Before any official announcement was made on where and when the rest of the season will take place, many were already sure that it will be in the UAE. The last season of the IPL was successfully held here with a bio-secure bubble and this year will be the same. Cricket fans can stream the matches live and can already find IPL 2021 betting odds and promotions from 10CRIC and other sportsbooks. However, many are still hoping that the IPL will finally open its doors to a live audience.
Changes in Sharjah Stadium
And just before the IPL phase 2 start, the managing director of Bukhatir Group and CEO of the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, Khalaf Bukhatir announced that the place will have major upgrades.
Bukhatir said, “Sharjah atmosphere or as we like to call it the ‘Sharjah Magic’ is what differentiates the stadium from any other cricketing venue in the UAE. This was no more evident than at last year’s edition when we played host to some of the most exciting moments of the IPL.”
A statement from the Sharjah stadium management was released. It details what upgrades the place will have. On the statement, it said, “The newly re-laid wicket block will now accommodate six pitches in the center, including four broadcasting and two practice pitches. They are currently building a new practice facility with four turf wickets and four astro-turf wickets to accommodate multiple teams during practice sessions. These will be ready in time for the IPL.”
There will also be 11 new VIP suits and a new VIP grand dining area. The hospitality facilities will also be at the top tier of the pavilion end. There will also be a new state-of-the-art Fit Capital gymnasium and a new indoor swimming pool which will have amenities like steam rooms and a sauna that the players could use.
“In recent years, we have invested in all elements to ensure that players and spectators alike have an even better match day experience. We still don’t know if we are welcoming cricket fans into the stadium this IPL, but we are certainly ready and looking forward to hosting some world-class cricket in a world-class safe, and secure environment,” Bukhatir added.
Recent Announcements on Allowing Spectators to Watch the IPL Live
The ECB has already expressed how they are hoping to have live spectators at some point of the remainder of the season. ECB General Secretary Mubashir Usmani spoke about how they are already seeking approval about allowing spectators in the IPL matches.
Usmani said, “As hosts, ECB will work closely with the authorities to seek approval on what protocols need to be followed – this includes fan attendance, we will then discuss it with the BCCI as well as the ICC to assess their spectator requirements. We want our ex-pat and Emirati sports-loving fans in the UAE to be able to watch the action from the stands.”
Usmani is said to be confident and optimistic about working things smoothly if the authorities will allow live audiences during the matches. He explained, “We have a UAE-wide team of highly experienced events and logistics companies and individuals, therefore we are confident in facing and working confidently through any challenges that may arise.”
The UAE government has recently decided to allow only up to 60 percent stadium capacity for the upcoming IPL matches in the country. According to a report by Telegraph, the government has come to this decision after thorough consultations with the BCCI and the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB). The rest of the IPL season will have a total of 30 matches and the final is scheduled to take place on October 15, two days before the start of the T20 World Cup.