Bubble watch: IPL franchises not letting their guard down  

Express News Service

CHENNAI: The English summer has come to an abrupt end, but the temperatures are soaring in the UAE. With just six days to go for the 2021 edition of the IPL to restart after a four-month gap, preparations are in full swing and with most players — except those who are featuring in the Caribbean Premier League and the bilateral series between South Africa and Sri Lanka — having checked in. Ever since the franchises landed in Dubai and Abu Dhabi towards the second half of August, the mood has been quite upbeat, with each one insisting on the safety of the environment.

It is in complete contrast to what was in India — rather specifically in Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi and Ahmedabad — in the months of April and May. With the tournament commencing in the middle of a strong Covid-19 second wave in India under a bio-secure environment, there was a bit of anxiety and fear with many of the franchise officials keeping their fingers crossed to deliver a full tournament. In the end, the move to hold the tournament at home proved costly as coronavirus breached the bio-bubble, bringing the event to a halt at the halfway stage.

With the league all set to resume and so much riding on it, the recent developments in Manchester mean franchises and the BCCI are not letting their guard down. Although it has been a while since all the teams landed in the gulf and they are feeling more at home, they are aware it can lead to complacency, and the arrival of India and England players straight from Manchester means they are extra vigilant.

“There is so much at stake, which is why the six-day quarantine has been made mandatory. Although all are vaccinated and have tested negative in the RT-PCR tests, it is always better to be well prepared and cover the bases. Whether you fly in by a commercial flight or charter flight, the moment you use the airport, there is always an element of risk. So this quarantine is absolutely necessary because it avoids any jitters,” a franchise official told this newspaper.

For the record, those players who are undergoing quarantine will take three RT-PCR tests in six days and will join the bubble only if they test negative in all.

Incidentally, when the BCCI decided to host the event in India in six cities, the air travel was seen as the biggest cause of concern. In the UAE, there is no need to worry about it as all three venues will be accessed via bus travel. And moreover, franchises have also put to use the experience of their lessons from 2020, when the entire tournament was held in UAE. Unlike in India where some franchises couldn’t control the public from taking the lifts that the players used, it won’t be the case in UAE.

With Dubai Expo beginning in October, the prices of hotel rooms have gone up when compared to the 2020 edition which was held just after lockdown. However, with crowd movement expected in the hotel, franchises have even gone to the extent of renting the entire hotel for themselves this time around. “Last time, the world hadn’t opened up to this extent. This time it is totally different and with locals vaccinated and foreigners expected to turn up, it is business as usual here. So to be on the safer side, franchises have booked entire hotels to themselves,” said an IPL official overseeing the preparations.