As per reports, the 13th edition of the much-awaited Indian Premier League is all set to get underway during the September-November window in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The recent ICC decision regarding postponing the ICC T20 World Cup and the ongoing health crisis in India is bound to force the BCCI to host the lucrative league in the UAE. Even though many other countries have agreed to host the IPL, the better infrastructural facilities, the close proximity of the stadiums, better logistics, and the experience of hosting the league way back in 2014 make UAE the first preference. They also successfully hosted a major MMA event in Abu Dhabi last month.
The IPL 2020 in UAE is expected to be played in Sheik Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, Sharjah Cricket Stadium, and Dubai International Cricket Stadium. The initial 20 matches of the 2014 edition of the IPL was held in these three stadiums due to General elections in India.
If the fans are expecting the UAE edition of the IPL to be a high scoring encounter, you are in for some disappointment. Over the years, the dust bowls in UAE have never been a suitable batting surface, with the average first-innings scores in three of the main venues being 153 in Sharjah, 147 in Abu Dhabi, and 149 in Dubai. These grounds are ideal for chasing as more than 60% of the time team batting second has gone onto win the match.
Spinners, especially leg spinners and medium pace bowlers with the ability to bowl cutters and slower ones will come in handy in the IPL much more than ever.
The decision to shift the IPL to UAE is bound to change the basic layout of how each team lines up for the tournament. Most of the teams approached this year’s auction keeping in mind their home conditions and picked players that could yield them better results to help them win most of the home matches. For such teams, this decision is a proper stab in the back.
UAE being the home venue for Pakistan team and due to the ongoing political tensions between India and Pakistan, most Indian players including the senior Internationals lacks the experience of playing in the UAE. So, the performance of the overseas players will make a huge difference in determining the fate of the tournament much more than ever, in this edition of the IPL.
The one team that is going to be hugely affected by this change in venue is KKR. Even though they won the 2014 edition of the IPL, of which one-third was held in the UAE, they are not that spin-dependent team anymore. Eden Gardens went through a great change in recent years with the curators turning it to a proper flat track for batting. Coach McCullum has assembled an attacking team that would’ve paid huge dividends in Eden, but not in the UAE. The lack of a leg-spinner in the line-up and the current form of Kuldeep will backfire them in UAE. Pat Cummins, who secured a multi-million dollar deal along with inexperienced pace bowling attack may not be sufficient to tackle the middle east challenges, making their chances of qualifying for playoffs very slim.
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Virat Kohli led RCB also won’t be much happy regarding this decision. The lack of proper bowling options and the slow nature of the UAE surface are not likely to suit RCB’s style of play. Don’t be surprised if you see Isuru Udana playing ahead of Dale Steyn considering his ability to bowl the slower ones. By the look of the things, the passionate RCB fans will have to once again wait for one more year or longer to see their name of the prestigious trophy.
The defending champions Mumbai Indians will also find it difficult to make it to the playoffs, not because ‘Sharma ji ka beta only wins it in odd years’, but because the conditions in UAE are quite opposite to what they get in Wankhede. The attacking batting lineup including the likes of Quinton De Kock, Rohit Sharma, Chris Lynn, and Hardik Pandya may not fire like what they were expected to do in Wankhede. Adding to that the spin bowling department looks weak with Rahul Chahar being the only bankable spinner. Mumbai Indians would’ve been easily one of the top contenders to defend the title if it was held in India, but not so in the UAE. Not to forget the 5-0 whitewash they suffered in the UAE leg in the 2014 edition.
With the kind of form that Stokes is in now, he can make anything happen. His all-round abilities would determine the chances for Rajasthan Royals who have the most complete overseas quota among all the teams. The inexperience of the domestic unit may backfire them in the UAE edition. Their chances of qualifying would depend heavily on the performance of top overseas players and how well their young domestic players can adapt to the UAE conditions.
Delhi Capitals probably has the strongest domestic strength amongst all the teams. Their trades of Ajinkya Rahane and Ravichandran Ashwin may provide them with much more value in UAE than in India. Even though heavily reliant on domestic strength, they have all varied options lineup in their armoury to survive in the UAE. Don’t get surprised if Shreyas Iyer and co. qualifies for the playoffs once again.
David Warner led SunRisers Hyderabad are one of the front runners for the top 4 position. The addition of one of the successful limited-overs coach Trevor Baylis along with their strong overseas lineup adds to their advantage. The low scoring nature of the pitch compliments their style of play. SRH bowling line-up led by Bhuvi would enjoy the conditions in UAE. We may also see more of West Indian all-rounder Fabian Allen than Kane Williamson as their fourth overseas player. His contribution towards the last part of the innings may come in handy if SRH needs to qualify for the play-offs.
IPL’s most popular franchise Chennai Super Kings would be one of the least affected teams due to the shifting of venue. Even though they are one of the teams that relied heavily on home advantage to make it to the playoffs, the spin-friendly nature of UAE pitches is bound to give them a feel of Chepauk. The low scoring nature of the pitch and the hot and humid climate will suit CSK more than any other team. Get ready for some cutters from Sam Curran!
One team that will be jumping in joy if IPL gets shifted to UAE will be Kings XI Punjab, over the last 12 years of the IPL, their most memorable moments have come in the 5 matches that they played in the UAE. Among the many teams who have played 5 or more T20 matches in the UAE, they are the only team that boasts a 100% win rate. They won each of their 5 matches in the 2014 UAE leg of the IPL, thanks to batting heroics from Glenn Maxwell. He averaged 60 in that year with a whopping strike rate of 201. Kings would be happy that they have secured Maxi regardless of knowing that IPL will be shifted to the UAE.
Kings XI Punjab have a headstart over the rest of the teams with most of their overseas players are seasoned franchise players who has wealth of experience of playing in the UAE.
Players including Chris Jordan, Hardus Viljoen, and Nicholas Pooran have shined in the T10 tournament held in the UAE. Slower ball variations of Jordan are expected to pay huge dividends in UAE much more than in Mohali. All this added with the red hot form of captain KL Rahul makes them a suitable candidate to lift the UAE edition of the IPL.
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