The major talking points of the schedule of the India leg of the IPL were the omission of Raipur and Jaipur from the list of host cities, and Ranchi having been preferred over Kochi as Chennai Super Kings' second home. The IPL authorities have said that the changes were made due to lack of security assurances from some of the state governments.
Jaipur missed out because of the inability of the Rajasthan Cricket Association (RCA) to acquire requisite state government clearances. "We have not got the No-Objection Certification (NOC) from them," IPL chairman Ranjib Biswal said. It has been understood that the court-appointed BCCI-IPL president Sunil Gavaskar has extended the deadline for all the shortlisted IPL venues to provide NOC from their respective police authorities by Wednesday (April 2).
While RCA officiating secretary KK Sharma was unavailable for a comment, a RCA insider revealed it was a win-win situation for all stakeholders. "The state association is in a mess. Election results are held by the court. The BCCI is against the RCA. And even the team owners were not so keen on Jaipur as their first choice, so everyone is happy," said the insider. This will be the second time Ahmedabad will feature as the home venue for Rajasthan Royals, after hosting four Royals home matches in 2010.
Although no one from Royals was available for an on-record comment, it is understood that the franchise was not interested in Jaipur due to the various on-going controversies in the RCA. Even last year the franchise was kept on edge till a last-minute turnaround by the Rajasthan Sports Council allowed the Royals to play at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur which had been locked out earlier. "Ahmedabad has three-times bigger capacity, has three times less hassles and more sponsors are available for the franchise," a former RCA official said.
There had been few problems in Raipur last year, when two of Delhi Daredevils' home games were held at the Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh Stadium. ESPNcricinfo understands that the franchise had requested to host two more matches this year, following the overwhelming response for both matches. Biswal said Raipur missed out since it was "not necessary to have so many venues" this season.
Like Raipur, Dharamsala, the picturesque venue in Himachal Pradesh that had emerged as Punjab's second home venue over the years, does not find a slot in this season's schedule. The reason is the same as Jaipur's. "Despite writing to the relevant police authorities twice and a HPCA representative meeting them in person for providing the requisite security cover for IPL games, they just didn't even bother to respond - either in affirmative or negative," said Vishal Marwaha, secretary of Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association. "This just shows that the state government just didn't want IPL matches to be played in Himachal."
As a result, Kings XI will play two of their home games in Cuttack, the home city of IPL chairman Biswal. According to Mohit Burman, a co-owner at Kings XI Punjab, the franchise had asked for Ahmedabad as the first alternative. "They had consulted us and even if Cuttack was not our preference we are happy," Burman said.
The Chennai Super Kings will also play two of their home games outside the city they are based in, hosting them in Ranchi - the hometown of India and Chennai Super Kings captain MS Dhoni. Super Kings had received tremendous response for their 2013 Champions League Twenty20 games in Ranchi. As a result, despite Kerala Cricket Association TC Mathew having announced that Kochi was set to host "a couple of CSK home matches", Ranchi got the nod of the IPL authorities.
It is understood that during their meeting with the IPL officials in Chennai in February had been asked to submit their shortlist of alternate venues other than their home grounds. And the BCCI insiders said they have done their best to accommodate most of their requests.
"It's extremely impossible to adhere to each and everyone's preference," an official said. "Without going into the specifics of an individual venue, I would say that considering the logistical challenges and the operational considerations, we have drawn a schedule that would suit virtually everyone. We have to factor in kit and crew movements, also the fact that every team has to get at least one game in a weekend double header."
The IPL starts on April 16 in the UAE, where 20 matches will be played, and shifts to India on May 2 with the final scheduled for June 1 in Mumbai.
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo; Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo