The ninth iteration of the Indian Premier League (IPL) has run into the mother of all roadblocks — in the form of the Bombay High Court’s Wednesday order that all IPL matches scheduled in Maharashtra after April 30 be shifted elsewhere in view of the severe drought in the state.
The order came despite an assurance by the Board Of Control For Cricket In India (BCCI) that IPL franchises of Mumbai and Pune had agreed to contribute Rs 5 crore to the chief minister’s drought relief fund.
Additionally, the BCCI on Tuesday had assured the Bombay High Court that untreated sewage water would be used to maintain pitches for the seventeen IPL matches to be played in Mumbai and Pune.
Despite all arguments set in front of the court by the BCCI, the court said: “We agree that merely shifting of IPL matches out of the state will not be a solution but this can be a beginning to address the drought situation in Maharashtra. Several people are dying because of water scarcity in the state. This court cannot ignore the plight of such people.”
What led to the judgement in the first place:
A public interest litigation filed by NGO Loksatta Movement, challenging the use of large quantities of water in stadiums despite the state being drought-hit, brought the matter to the attention of the Bombay High Court.
Earlier this month, the high court had questioned the rationale of organising these matches in Maharashtra when the state is under drought.
“How can you waste water like this? Are people more important or IPL? How can you be so careless,” the court had said while hearing the suit, adding, “This is criminal wastage. You know the situation in Maharashtra.”
The matter had escalated further when Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis refused to provide potable water for maintaining the pitches and said that he was not bothered even if the matches were shifted out of the state.
“My government has taken strong position in the High Court. We have said that we will not provide potable water for IPL for this season. We don’t have any problem even if IPL is shifted, but no potable water will be provided,” he had told the media.
How many matches and teams will be affected:
According to Cricbuzz.com, in just 17 days, the IPL governing council, the three affected franchises – Mumbai Indians, Rising Pune Supergiants and Kings XI Punjab – and the stakeholders will have to identify venues to host a total of 10 games — originally to be played in Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur.
The report added that the Mumbai Indians had three matches scheduled at the Wankhede stadium, Mumbai, in May, Rising Pune Supergiants had four at the Maharashtra Cricket Association stadium in Pune during the same month and Kings XI Punjab had three at Nagpur’s Vidarbha Cricket Association.
The cricketing league’s chairman Rajeev Shukla on Wednesday said that moving the matches at this stage will be a “problem”, reported The Times of India. However, he added that the BCCI is working on an “alternative plan”.
Speaking to TOI after the court issued its order, Shukla said: “Organising the IPL is a gigantic work. It’s not easy. All preparations had been done, completed. Now shifting the matches will be a problem.”
“So far, we have not got the written order, after we get that, we will work out an alternative plan. We always respect the court. We need to talk to other franchises. Out of 19 matches in Maharashtra, 13 have to be moved out, we will have to work it out,” he added.
The Hindustan Times reported on the specific problems involved with shifting of matches.
According to the report, preparation of the pitch itself takes three to four days.
The April 7 report quoted BCCI officials as they expressed their frustration over the possibility of having to shift matches.
Speaking to the Hindustan Times, one BCCI member said, “The schedule was decided a month ago. This is beyond our control.”
“There’s no way we can do this (last minute switch),” said another member.
Explaining the logistics-related hurdles involved to Hindustan Times, a Pune official said: “There will be too many logistical hassles. There are lots of permissions needed. Ticketing has to be taken care of. The ground has to be available. Hotel bookings and travel plans have to be made for the teams. Our preparations have been on for two months.”
“It will be a massive issue for all three teams,” he added.
The biggest hurdle, according to the report, would be finding available substitutes to the pitches in Maharashtra. It would be difficult to find grounds that are ready to host matches at such a short notice.
What this could mean for the franchises:
Sources close to both the Mumbai Indians and Rising Pune Supergiants, two of the three affected teams, said that the team promoters were now waiting to sit with the BCCI to chart the way forward.
“In 2014, when the IPL moved to Dubai for the first leg of the season, the BCCI had, after consulting the teams, agreed to partly compensate the added expenses on the teams for travelling and staying abroad. Both teams expect a similar resolution,” said an executive.
Additionally, the loss of revenue for the teams will only become clear once new venues are selected. According to rules, if a team is unable to play at its home stadium for any reason, the ground that the match shifts to becomes the team’s home ground for that period.
For example, if Mumbai Indians’ matches are held at Eden Gardens, the Kolkata ground will be treated as Mumbai Indians’ home ground and the proceeds from the gate revenues will go to the Mumbai team, as they would have at the Wankhede Stadium.
“One of the main things that the teams would want to discuss with the BCCI is the new venues. There has to be some following of the Mumbai and Pune teams at the new venues,” said another executive close to the development.
What options does BCCI have:
Reacting to the Bombay High Court order, the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) on Wednesday expressed its readiness to host the IPL final, reported TOI.
Speaking to TOI, CAB secretary Subir Ganguly offered Eden Gardens as the venue for the match and said that they will be happy to host it if BCCI agrees.
Days before the court’s judgement, the Mumbai Mirror reported that top IPL officials were meeting at the BCCI headquarters on Saturday.
According to the report, “frenetic” activity was underway across “at least five states to accommodate Maharashtra games”.
The Mirror cited sources and said that a “contingency plan” was in place to move Kings XI Punjab’s three games back to Mohali from Nagpur.
Additionally, Gujarat Lions’ two games, scheduled to be played in Kanpur, would be shifted to Rajkot.
BCCI was also looking at Indore and Ranchi as prospective venues, added the report. Additionally, the Barabati Stadium in Cuttack, Odisha, was also being considered as an option.