BY QAISER MOHAMMAD ALI
The Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) began preparations for the Indian Premier League (IPL) as early as May, after it became clear that the 13th edition of the tournament couldn’t be played in India due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant lockdown, its general secretary Mubashshir Usmani revealed to IANS in an exclusive interview.
Usmani, a commerce graduate from the University of Bombay, gives full credit to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the Emirates government, and other local authorities for successfully hosting the lucrative T20 tournament in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah. Later, the BCCI and ECB signed a MoU and hosting agreement “to boost the cricketing ties” between India and the UAE.
In an interview with IANS, Usmani talks about how the IPL, which ends with the final on November 10 in Dubai, was brought to the UAE.
Excerpts from the interview:
What are the salient features of the MoU/hosting agreement between the BCCI and the ECB and will that also mean that Indian team (and other teams) be playing in the UAE more regularly?
We are extremely pleased to enter into this hosting agreement which was signed by BCCI secretary Jay Shah and ECB vice-chairman Khalid Al Zarooni prior the start of this year’s IPL. While we are not yet in a position to go into detail, I can state that we are excited with the opportunities that will result (from the agreement) and that the ties between both the BCCI and Emirates Cricket will be substantially boosted.
All the pieces of the jigsaw seem to have fallen in place.
Collectively, our board, the BCCI, IPL, the UAE authorities, and numerous committees and personnel have worked tirelessly to ensure the IPL would start smoothly. We are extremely grateful to each and every individual who contributed to ensuring this was the case and we are delighted with the result.
Everyone knows that Covid-19 was the biggest question mark against the IPL happening this year, even after the BCCI decided to relocate it to the UAE. Although the ECB had the experience of hosting the IPL in 2014 when there was no Covid, what were the hurdles that the ECB faced this time around?
We are very fortunate that the only hurdle we faced was the effective management of Covid-19, which is being successfully managed by ourselves, the BCCI, UAE authorities, and the selected experts.
How easy or difficult was it for the ECB to get permissions from the governments of the three emirates — Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah — to host the IPL, considering the rising number of cases in some of the emirates, particularly in Dubai?
We started working with the various government departments, including the Abu Dhabi, Dhabi and Sharjah Sports Councils, UAE Ministries and Authorities as early as May, after we presented our intent to the BCCI to host the 13th edition of the IPL. We were, and continue to be, greatly encouraged by their support and expertise while ensuring all due processes and protocols were and are followed.
I gather that the UAE governments — both the UAE Federal government and local governments of the seven emirates — granted some concessions in Covid protocols to the IPL teams and officials etc so that the tournament could go ahead. Your comment.
The Covid-19 protocols being followed by all members of the IPL contingent have been set by the BCCI and their health experts which were finalised after consultation with the various UAE authorities. While we are not able to delve into the exact details, we are extremely grateful to the UAE authorities for their support in ensuring all due processes and necessary protocols are compliant and are being strictly adhered to.
There are different Covid protocols in different emirates. This must obviously be one of the challenges, both for the ECB and the BCCI while thrashing many issues like drawing the match schedule and travel/logistics of the teams etc.
BCCI and their health experts, with the support of ECB, devised the protocols and, after consulting and working with the various UAE authorities, reached an agreeable, compliant process. BCCI then shared these protocols with each team to implement and strictly follow.
A large number of positive tests in the Chennai Super Kings camp before the IPL started would have rattled many people, including that team and the ECB. What was feeling within the ECB and what role did the ECB play in overcoming this development?
In fact, overall there were a small number of asymptomatic positive cases which were swiftly handled and the team’s full contingent was reunited once the Covid-19 protocols were strictly followed and all personnel returned negative tests. The IPL started on-time with the opening match as per the norm of every IPL opening match.