The 2020 IPL will have a new venue in Guwahati, which will host two of Rajasthan Royals' home matches. The games, which will begin at 8pm IST, will be played at the Barsapara Cricket Stadium. The first match is scheduled for April 5 against the Delhi Capitals and the second on April 9 against the Kolkata Knight Riders.
The IPL had earmarked Guwahati as an alternate venue for both matches in its original schedule for the league phase of the tournament which starts on March 29. On Thursday, the BCCI confirmed through a media release that Guwahati was the final venue, making it the first city in the north-east of India to host an IPL match.
Initially, the Royals franchise had requested the IPL to play three matches in Guwahati. However, the IPL Governing Council had put the decision on hold in the wake of the Rajasthan Cricket Association filing a plea in the Rajasthan High Court against playing the Royals' home matches outside the original home base in Jaipur.
Reacting to the IPL's decision, the franchise said in a media release that it felt "motivated" about them allowing the "team's aspiration to play and expand footprints of cricket" in a region where the sport is not predominant unlike in the rest of India.
The franchise said that every team is allowed the option to play a maximum of three home matches outside the home base and hence it "reviewed" several venues, including Trivandrum, Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Mumbai and Guwahati.
Guwahati emerged as the popular choice primarily after the franchise witnessed a spike in support in the north-east on the back of "impactful" performance from Riyan Parag, who plays for Assam in domestic cricket.
"Jaipur is our home, and will continue to be so with the support of the Rajasthan Cricket Association," Manoj Badale, the lead owner of the Royals, said. "The magnificent backing that we get from the fans in Rajasthan is unparalleled and it is something that keeps us going in our ambitions to further expand our fan-base in other parts of the country. During a season, we are allowed a maximum of three matches at another venue, like we have done in the past in Ahmedabad and Mumbai.
"However, last season, we witnessed the enthusiasm of the people from the Northeast when the young gun of Assam, Riyan Parag, played many impactful innings for our team. The region that once lacked resources and facilities for cricket has seen so much growth, investing funding from the BCCI very effectively. The stadium is top quality and therefore we feel the time is right to grow our Royals' family and get the love and support from fans across the Northeast."
Ranji Barthakur, the executive chairman of the Royals, said that the two matches had the potential to unlock the enthusiasm of the fans in the region which has been "deprived" of watching cricket.
"We…are very excited of the historic decision that we have collectively made in an attempt to take cricket to a region that was deprived of it for a long time," Barthakur said. "The idea is to give the fans from across India the opportunity to come and experience a fantastic match-day at the stadiums. Having a spread over Rajasthan and Guwahati will give more choice to fans from the Northeast, West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha and adjoining areas to get an incredible stadium experience."
Seven Indian players, including Robin Uthappa and Parag, have already arrived in Guwahati for a three-day pre-season camp, spearheaded by Royals' Head of Cricket Zubin Bharucha. Batting coach Amol Muzumdar, fielding coach Dishant Yagnik and physio John Gloster will also oversee the camp.