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Sunday, November 1, 2020

Overseas players’ visas and double-headers – things IPL franchises would want clarity on

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Despite having deferred the IPL until April 15, the tournament’s governing council will meet on Saturday in Mumbai to review the precautionary steps needed to be put in place for the marquee event to start in April. The IPL top brass will also be meeting the owners/top executives of all franchises to explain the situation and address the various questions they will have. ESPNcricinfo looks at the key points that are likely to come up for discussion.

More double-headers?

It is understood that to mitigate the late start to the IPL, the organisers are likely to stretch the tournament with the final on June 5. With the tournament now possibly starting two weeks later, the BCCI would be under pressure to fit in all the 60 matches in a tight window. Originally, the final was scheduled for May 24 in Mumbai, but it is understood that the organisers are thinking of extending the schedule till June to reduce the prospect of several double-headers.

In the original IPL schedule, there were only four double-headers, all to be played on Sundays. However, with the window likely to be shrunk now, the tournament may feature more double-headers.

Both the broadcaster, Star Sports, as well as the teams were not in favour of too many double-headers for different reasons. Star didn’t prefer the afternoon matches that start at 4pm as they did not attract good ratings. The players didn’t want the afternoon matches as the IPL is played during the peak summer when the mercury hovers close to the 40-degree Celsius.

However, during Saturday’s meeting, the franchises are likely to raise the red flag at extending the tournament beyond late May due to the unavailability of some of the overseas players, especially those from England, who are scheduled to play a three-match Test series against West Indies starting on June 4. The ECB had already informed the IPL governing council that all England players would be available until May 26.

Visas for overseas players

Focusing on containing the spread of the coronavirus that has claimed close to 5000 lives and infected over 135,000 people across 120 countries so far, the Indian government, with the approval from its prime minister Narendra Modi, had decided on March 11 to impose severe restrictions on tourists into the country, including non-resident Indians and overseas citizens of India. “All existing visas, except diplomatic, official, UN/International Organizations, employment, project visas stand suspended till April 15, 2020,” the Indian government had said, stating the restrictions would come into play from Friday.

The franchises have been concerned about that ever since and would want clarification from the IPL governing council on Saturday. Overseas players and support staff participate in the IPL by getting a business visa on which they get employment. The franchises would want to know whether the overseas contingent would be exempt by the government or not.

As per the visa rules listed by the Indian government, foreign coaches and players are to be given employment visas. The following categories of foreign nationals are eligible for an employment visa: “Foreign nationals who are coming to India to take up employment as coaches of national/state level teams or reputed sports clubs, and foreign sportsmen who are given contract for a specified period by the Indian clubs/organizations (This will not include foreign nationals who are engaged in commercial sports events in India on contract (including coaches), for whom appropriate visa would be B-Sports visa).”

Playing in limited venues

Internally, the governing council and franchises have also been considering whether to limit the number of venues and cluster the eight teams together at one or two places to limit the movement. But officials from more than one team said there were many cons to this idea as far as the franchises are concerned. The biggest downside being the teams stand to lose the home advantage, something crucial in a multi-team tournament.

Then there is the commercial aspect. The franchises have already locked in ground sponsors and flights across the season, and have spent a lot of money. Of course, the franchises do understand this is an extraordinary situation, but they would look for good compensation form the BCCI, which recently hiked the staging fee and revoked the standing money earned by the four teams that make the playoffs.

Another measure the governing council might consider, in case the conditions are not deemed fit to start the tournament from April 16, and the window is further shrunk, is to change the format for this season. This could probably be done by reducing the number of home and away matches, or by coming up with a revised format that could be a level-playing field for all eight teams.

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