The game starts

Much delayed IPL will begin with hope and excitement as usual, but also never-before challenges.

For much of this year, the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League seemed the unluckiest of all. As recently as last May, the tournament was shrouded in uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In this backdrop, the start of this much-delayed tournament is a coup of sorts. However, the 53-day tournament would be without spectators, glamour, and celebrations that mark the annual mid-summer festival.

For players, it’s an unusual challenge they are not prepared for. They will be inside a bio-secure bubble for nearly two months. Cricketers would have to deal with ‘the lockdown-triggered rustiness and also the fear of getting infected with the virus. The hotels are equipped with amenities, but to survive without a social life and fan interaction could prove to be claustrophobic. It’s cruel irony that Sharjah is one of the venues. Not long ago, the Sharjah Cup was the most romanticised cricket fixture. Sharjah has lost its festivity and glory, and this year the IPL too must sacrifice its extravagance.

Nonetheless, a lot is riding on this IPL, a tournament that was famously called recession-free by its founder Lalit Modi. The heavily invested sponsors and broadcaster, still nursing lockdown wounds, are hoping T20 cricket, like always, will not disappoint them. They are also punting heavily on the anticipation of fans, who have been deprived of live action during the lockdown. The IPL action will be beamed to 100 countries. In India alone 550 million are expected to tune in. Fingers are crossed, the stakeholders are calculating that in case they are able to dodge the virus, a pot of gold awaits them at the end of the difficult obstacle course. They will hope that the action that unfolds in the middle will be top-class. But it would be an atypical IPL edition.

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