IPL releases schedule, season will start with Mumbai v Chennai

The Indian Premier League has released the schedule for its 2020 season in the United Arab Emirates. The opening match will be a repeat of last year’s final, with the Mumbai Indians playing the Chennai Super Kings on September 19 in Abu Dhabi.

The release of the schedule was delayed as IPL organisers grappled with logistical issues including new internal border controls in the UAE to combat an uptick in Covid-19 cases in Abu Dhabi.

Matches will take place at 3:30pm and 7:30pm Indian Standard Time – 2pm and 6pm UAE time – across venues in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah. The league phase of the tournament will run for 46 days, until November 3.

This year’s IPL has been moved from India to the UAE because of the pandemic. The teams, officials and broadcast production staff have been arriving in the country over the past few weeks. Everyone involved must undergo quarantine on arrival and remain within ‘bio-secure bubbles’ for the duration of the tournament.

CSK has lost two star players, Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh, who withdrew due to personal reasons, although Raina may yet rejoin the team. Raina said he was concerned for his health after there were 13 positive Covid-19 tests within the CSK camp.

IPL domestic streaming partner Disney Plus Hotstar has announced new interactive elements in its coverage this year. The platform will once again run its Watch N’ Play social stream, that allows fans to share emojis on live streams of matches. This year, viewers will also be able to share selfies, called ‘Hotshots’, and customised videos, called ‘Duets’. The best Duets will be broadcast on Star Sports, the streaming service’s sister pay-television broadcaster.

Uday Shankar, president of Star and Disney India, said, “After several months of the lockdown, we believe that this tournament can be a catalyst in ushering in new optimism and smiles in India, with millions of fans cheering together from all parts of the country. Our use of technology in presenting this immersive experience will not only set a global benchmark but also redefine the way we watch and enjoy sports in the coming years.”

Disney Plus Hotstar is offering its IPL coverage in India to subscribers to its VIP package, which costs Rs399 ($5.44/€4.59) for 12 months, and its Premium package, which costs Rs1,499 ($20.45) for 12 months. The platform has agreed deals with mobile networks Jio and Airtel to offer special prepaid plans for customers that come with a 12-month VIP subscription.

IPL teams continue to close sponsorship deals ahead of the season start. Kerala Blasters agreed a “long-term” deal with wearable technology firm STATSports. Blasters players will wear STATSport devices to generate data that will be used by the team’s performance department to monitor fitness levels and reduce injury risk. CSK agreed a deal with energy drink Boost. Mumbai Indians signed a deal with home appliances manufacturer Usha International for the seventh season in succession.