IPL 2020 Was a Logistical, Medical, and a Cricketing Success
Months of planning and collaboration between BCCI and teams helped the IPL become a safe success this season.
The Indian Premier League (IPL)’s 2020 edition has finally ended, nearly two months after it became an everyday habit for cricket-loving fans in India and around the world.
Some top-flight cricket was witnessed where the players raised the profile of fielding, batting and bowling in a calibrated approach. Now that the tournament has ended there are suddenly withdrawal symptoms as the everyday habit has abruptly come to an end.
The First Move
The effort to put together the tournament was a long drawn out process that played out in the background without anyone’s knowledge. Discussions around the IPL being staged in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) actually began with an inane statement from the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) offering to host the IPL back in May 2020.
At that time not many paid attention to that statement because the pandemic was causing havoc all over the globe. But quietly the wheels were set in motion for the tournament to be staged with the BCCI/IPL actively being involved in discussion with those in the know in the ECB.
It required a Test match sort of patience that was on display because a lot of boxes needed to be ticked for the tournament of that level to be kicked off. The England home series against West Indies and Pakistan went a long way in putting doubts at rest about cricket being played in the bio-bubble era.
Getting the Wheels in Motion
By early July the tournament preparations began earnestly. But it was still going to be a humongous task to get a tournament of this level to take off with eight teams with so many players and support staff, along with the event staff etc. The tournament managers, International Management Group (IMG) were also involved at this stage to get the tournament going.
There was no official confirmation till early August from anyone involved at either the Indian Premier League (IPL) or the BCCI about the tournament. Everyday speculation grew around the tournament as the teams started making plans for the tournament quietly in the background.
The tournament details remained sketchy for the public at large but the tournament plans were being worked out quietly.
A Great Partner in the UAE
For UAE this tournament was a god-sent opportunity because with Pakistan cricket moving back to Pakistan, there was some worry about what would happen to cricket facilities and the sport itself in the desert country. The IPL was a huge plus for the Emirates. Cases dropped in June-July and August raising hopes further for the tournament.
The big-ticket Expo 2020 event scheduled to run in Dubai from October 2020 to March 2021 had also been delayed by a year. So, the IPL was the ideal replacement to showcase Dubai as a gateway to the world. But there were still boxes to be ticked.
There were a few sticking points like the Abu Dhabi query. The emirate of Abu Dhabi had been locked down for a longer period and it required tests at the border to enter the capital city. With so much movement expected between the emirates during the entire course of the tournament. It was only fair on the part of the BCI/IPL/ECB to delay the announcement of the finer points of the tournament. ECB through its General Secretary Mubashshir W Usmani and IPL COO Hemang Amin worked through the finer points with various Emirates.
There are multiple levels to be involved when staging a tournament in the UAE. The Sports Councils of the three Emirates-Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, the Cricket Councils of the three Emirates, the venues and then the UAE government departments. All had to be brought on board.
“BCCI and their experts (across safe practices, logistics, and government liaisons) have worked tirelessly to ensure their extensive protocols and practices have been instigated and continue to be followed effectively and efficiently. Emirates Cricket assisted in this process by working closely with the Authorities in the three Emirates, the respective (cricket) councils and the BCCI,” Usmani confirmed in an interview with Khaleej Times.
Making the Bio-Bubble Safe
Around the same time squads assembled in various Indian cities, put together their own plans for hotels, quarantines etc. The schedule was still not announced as the Abu Dhabi puzzle had to be solved.
Restrata, the UK based agency, was employed to implement the bio-bubble protocols.
Towards the end of August, Abu Dhabi-based The National reported that VPS Healthcare were to conduct more than 20,000 tests of players, staff and every other stakeholder throughout the course of the tournament. Four nurses were to be assigned to each participating team. Labs in Dubai and Abu Dhabi checked the sample tested.
Even as these details were worked out, the schedule was finally ironed out in early September.
The bio-bubble was organised in such a way that the tournament staff, stadium staff, squads never came in direct contact with each other.
The biggest factor in the conduct of the tournament was that this time around the squads used their own logistics teams to cater to their players. The catering was arranged by the events team, but the actual process of managing the process in the dressing room was taken care of by the franchise.
This way the outside world or people from outside the bubble of the franchise did not have any connection with the squad.
The match officials were the closest to the players, along with a minimum number of event and broadcast staff. The COVID positive tests in the Chennai camp were a huge blow before the start of the tournament. But once the tournament got underway there were no further mishaps.
Ending on a High
In all every player/staff underwent close to 30 tests throughout the course of their entire stay as per conservative estimates. The tricky question around Abu Dhabi ingress and exit was also managed very well, but India's contracted players' injuries were not managed that well (that is a separate issue altogether).
Only two sets of stakeholders were missing from the tournament per se-crowd and media-every other stakeholder was actively involved in the conduct from the first ball till the last.
If you needed any indication about the extent to which players went to stay safe during the tournament, you just had to look at the Mumbai Indians squad after they won the tournament. The players and staff were immediately handed gloves to wear because they would be touching the trophy. Some from outside the bubble were invited onto the field, but they made sure to wear masks so as to not break protocols.
In the end the tournament ended on a high, with promise of a lot more in just six months’ time from all the eight franchises. Hopefully by then the vexed problems around COVID would have been solved.
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