The IPL is mulling the possibility of conducting the entire league stage of the 2021 season in Mumbai before moving to Ahmedabad for the knockouts. This is according to Parth Jindal, co-owner of the Delhi Capitals, during a chat with ESPNcricinfo soon after Thursday's auction in Chennai.
"From what I'm hearing and seeing, if England can come and tour, if the ISL (Indian Super League) can happen all in Goa, if Vijay Hazare Trophy (domestic 50-over competition) and Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (T20 competition) can happen across venues, I can't fathom the IPL moving out of India," Jindal said. "I do believe the IPL will happen in India.
"I believe they're contemplating whether to have the league phase at one venue (city) and playoffs at another venue. There's a lot of chatter about Mumbai being possibly being one venue because it has three grounds (Wankhede Stadium, Brabourne Stadium, DY Patil Stadium) and enough practice facilities, and Motera (Ahmedabad) hosting the knockouts, but it's all unverified, it's all just what I am hearing."
Jindal further stated having the league phase in Mumbai, for example, could be advantageous to the Capitals, who have a number of players from the city in their mix. Although the possibility of playing in Mumbai could be slim given Maharashtra's recent spike in Covid-19 cases which has prompted a new round of lockdowns.
"If you look at our selection of Steven Smith, we felt the wickets in Mumbai will suit his style of batting."
"The fact that we have so many Mumbai boys - Prithvi [Shaw], Jinks [Ajinkya Rahane], Shreyas [Iyer] helps. Mumbai has true bounce, the ball moves a bit because it's on the coast, and all that played a role. The other option is being mulled right now is, why not open up all venues, go everywhere and show the world we're ready for the T20 World Cup? They [BCCI are still unsure, I think it all depends on how the covid situation plays out in India over the next two weeks."
A few other key personnel from other franchises offered a straight bat. VVS Laxman, mentor of the Sunrisers Hyderabad, said "things were still uncertain regarding venues", while Venky Mysore, chief executive of Kolkata Knight Riders, echoed Laxman. Anil Kumble, head coach of Punjab Kings, meanwhile, said they'd picked a composition of their squad keeping "all options" and conditions in mind.
"We're extremely delighted with what we could manage," Kumble said. "We had the largest purse which meant people would chase us and keep upping the price, but the squad looks like what we wanted. We have all bases covered. If the tournament's going to be in India, we have all options covered. If in case it moves out, we wanted to cover those options as well [at the auction]."
Mysore, meanwhile, said: "Every team you can see has gone for that balance to adapt to whatever conditions we're given. These are unusual times and we're all very supportive of the BCCI. That the IPL was held itself was fantastic given the pandemic. If it happens in India, we're supportive of working through that and if it's elsewhere too. Most important the collective effort towards the tournament happening and in the most unimpeded way."
The ongoing England series is BCCI's first full International series at home since the pandemic broke out in February last year. After hosting the first Test in Chennai behind closed doors, they opened up the venue for the remainder of the series with crowds up to 50% of the stadium's capacity, despite the Indian government allowing outdoor sports events to have capacity crowds. England are scheduled to play five T20Is in Ahmedabad followed by three ODIs in Pune to wind off the tour on March 28.
"This year is going to be big as well because of what it is," BCCI president Sourav Ganguly had said earlier in the week, without divulging further details on the venue. However, over the past few months, he has been vocal about prioritising hosting the tournament in its entirety in India. "We'll see whether we can get the crowd back into the IPL, it's a decision we'll have to take very shortly. But it's going to be another great tournament."
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo