NEW DELHI 16 November 2020: Days after the seven-week Indian Premier League (IPL), cricket matches were played in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah with spectacular success, a consensus has emerged in India that the UAE has established itself as a global cricket destination.
“By hosting such a big tournament amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, the UAE has reinforced its credentials as a global sports destination,” the leading sports portal mykhel.com wrote about the IPL 2020 series. Khel is the Hindi word for game, sport or play.
“A safe and secure bio-bubble environment was created in which players, while competing, were completely isolated from their surroundings to negate the risk of getting infected by Covid-19,” the sports portal noted about arrangements made by the UAE authorities to ensure the safety of players throughout the tournament.
With the spectacular success of IPL 2020, there is already talk in India that the IPL next year should also be held in the UAE, said Wam.
A popular cricketing blog, krbuzz, speculated that “the 13th edition of the IPL in the UAE has set the stage for its next edition likely to be held here in April 2021. The UAE, with its three world-class venues and its facilities, has announced this is a safe haven for the game.”
A major consideration for repeating the tournaments in the UAE in five or six months would be travel by players to cricket stadiums amidst the global pandemic.
“The three venues – Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah – that were not that far away from one another made travelling and other logistics easy. The organisers can now heave a sigh of relief,” wrote mykhel.com.
If the tournaments were to be held in India, players would have to travel to various Indian cities with its challenges of flights as long as three hours with attendant Coronavirus risks and fears.
“Over the years, the UAE has been hailed as the hub of cricket in the Gulf region. It is time it is accepted as a hub that has ensured cricket never stops. It has backed many cricket playing nations who have had to encounter unforeseen obstacles to hold matches in their own country,” krbuzz added. “Be it their daily practice, travel, safety, or stay, everything was designed and executed for the best IPL.”
The Times of India noted a unique advantage of playing the IPL in the UAE. “With no pressure to address the demands of the home team, which is common when IPL is played in India, neutral curators in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah did a great job.” The newspaper also carried a report with the headline: “Pitches in UAE ensured balanced competition during IPL.”
Several Indian celebrities used the occasion of the IPL to return to their favourite travel destination, UAE, after the COVID-19 disruptions earlier this year. The Mumbai-headquartered newspaper, DNA, prominently carried a photo of popular Malayalam film star, Mohanlal, at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium for the final tournament.
The Indian Express had predicted at the start of the IPL season that “in case India fails to get a grip of the pandemic next year, chances are that the 2021 edition, expected to kick off in March, too will be played in the Gulf. The choice of the destination is not surprising. At the World Travel Awards last December, Abu Dhabi was given the award for the World’s Leading Sports Tourism Destination,” the newspaper noted.