The remainder of the 2021 IPL season will be held in September-October in the UAE. The decision was taken by the BCCI at a special general body meeting held virtually on Saturday. The BCCI also decided to "seek an extension" from the ICC "to take an appropriate call" on hosting the men's T20 World Cup, originally scheduled in India between mid-October and November 14.
ESPNcricinfo has learned that the BCCI has earmarked the start date of the IPL tentatively for September 20, after they had narrowed down on a window between September 18 and October 12 in internal meetings recently.
In a media release issued on Saturday, the BCCI said the decision to shift the IPL, which was suspended early May at the halfway stage, to the UAE was owing to the "monsoon season in India" which usually stretches between June and early October.
"The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on Saturday announced to complete the remaining matches of VIVO Indian Premier League 2021 season in the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E) considering the monsoon season in India in the months of September-October this year," the BCCI said.
There are several hurdles the BCCI faces in the limited window for the remainder of the IPL. Firstly, India's five-match Test series in England is scheduled to end on September 14 in Manchester. Within a week after that, England are scheduled to travel to Bangladesh followed by Pakistan for white-ball series that are expected to go on till mid-October. More than a dozen of England's top white-ball players feature in the IPL which will leave many franchises anxious about their unavailability.
The other key challenge is the CPL, which reiterated on Friday while announcing the players' draft that the 2021 edition will be held between August 28 and September 19. A lot of the top Caribbean players and many other big-name overseas players and coaching staff are involved in the CPL.
While the BCCI has opened a dialogue with the CPL to try and convince them to tweak their schedule, which could then allow players to move between the bubbles in St Kitts (the CPL venue) and the UAE quickly, it will not be an easy task. Advancing the CPL is hardly an option because West Indies' home season ends on August 24, only four days before the CPL starts, and includes series against South Africa, Australia and Pakistan. The BCCI remains confident that in case the CPL can end even a few days earlier than the current end date of September 19, it can wrap up the IPL in time before the main leg of the T20 World Cup.
At the time the IPL was suspended, there were still 31 matches, including the four playoffs, left to be played. With India continuing to be in the middle of a second wave of Covid-19, there were strong doubts about India hosting the second half of the IPL. Upon returning to Australia, Hussey said that he had doubts even about the T20 World Cup being held in India.
This will be the second successive year the UAE will be hosting the IPL. In 2020 the BCCI had conducted the entire tournament split between Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. Those three venues are likely to play hosts once again after the BCCI finalises the dates for the IPL, which remains its primary challenge now that it has announced the September-October window.
Time running out for decision on T20 World Cup
The ICC, too, has been clear that the window for the T20 World Cup, which is likely to be held between October 16-20 and November 14, cannot be changed. The ICC would also want the BCCI to take a call on whether the 16-team T20 World Cup, already postponed once last year, can be hosted in India or should it also be moved to the UAE, which was nominated as the back-up venue.
The BCCI said the SGM had "authorised the Office Bearers to seek an extension of time from the ICC to take an appropriate call" on hosting the T20 World Cup. The issue is one of the key items on the agenda of the ICC Board meet, scheduled for June 1, which BCCI president Sourav Ganguly is expected to attend.