The venue is going to be just one aspect of the IPL experience that will be different this year, what with Covid-19-related protocols and procedures the teams must adhere to, not to mention the vacant stands. Morris confessed to being "a little bit nervous" as they checked into the team hotel where the Indian contingent of players and support staffers had settled in a day before.
Virat Kohli, however, didn't travel with the rest of the Indian players, a Royal Challengers spokesperson told ESPNcricinfo: "Yes, Virat joined the team yesterday. He followed quarantine and testing according to RCB SOP in Mumbai and took a chartered flight directly from Mumbai to Dubai."
Safety of the players and other members of the travelling party is uppermost on the agenda for all the teams, and Royal Challengers are no different. Though they need only 55 rooms, they have booked one entire wing of a luxury hotel, adding up to 150 rooms, and, in Dubai, all the visitors will serve a mandatory six-day isolation and then be tested (for Covid-19) thrice before being allowed to enter the bio-bubble. Their training sessions begin on August 29.
"It's been quite a while since we played the game that we love, so yeah, very tough, very excited to get going, but a little bit nervous too, to be honest," Morris told the franchise's media team, while Steyn was more focused on the weather, wondering "how it's going to be in a couple of weeks" when the action begins.
"The travelling was a bit different to normal, but we made it here. I am looking forward to my Covid tests," de Villiers said. "Got a feel for what we are in for this year, and then I am looking forward to get to know everyone, all the new players, there's a whole new feel in the side, so very excited."
With the South Africans reaching Dubai, the wait is on for the rest of the overseas players. Australians Aaron Finch, Kane Richardson and Josh Philippe, who are all headed for England for their white-ball exchanges, will reach around the time of the start of the tournament on September 19. Apart from them, the squad includes England's Moeen Ali and Sri Lanka's Isuru Udana, and Mike Hesson and Simon Katich from among the support staffers, all of whom, franchise chairman Sanjeev Churiwala said in a press interaction last week, are expected to arrive in the next few days.
Along with booking the entire wing of the hotel, "gym facilities, restaurants will be permanently 100% secured for the exclusive use of the team; all hotel staff and service members will also be tested and staying in-house," he said. One staff member will be positioned outside the bubble for this period to help the team "coordinate with the outside world".
As far as players, and others, taking their families along to the UAE, Churiwala said that the decision had been left to the individuals.
"Most of the players this time are not travelling with their families," he said. "A few of them have decided, it's a personal choice that they have optioned for, and if at all their families travel with them - in our current assessment it's a very, very small group - everyone will go through the same bio-bubble procedures and protocols as laid down by BCCI. Without any exception."