"I won't deny the fact that it's going to be difficult initially. It's going to be strange. Just the echo of the ball hitting the bat - I haven't experienced that since playing Ranji Trophy cricket back in 2010."RCB captain Virat Kohli
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BCCI president Sourav Ganguly expects the IPL's TV viewership to hit all-time highs in 2020, and has indicated that spectators will be allowed to return to the stadiums later in the tournament in the UAE.
"Crowds will watch it on television... They [broadcasters] are actually expecting the highest rating of IPL this season, because they believe if [fans] don't turn up in the ground, they will be actually watching on their television sets," PTI quoted Ganguly as saying. His comments came while delivering an online lecture for the Symbiosis Golden Jubilee Lecture Series.
The IPL is set to begin on September 19 and run till November 10, with three venues in the mix: Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. However, with a recent spike in the number of Covid-19 cases in the UAE, the tightening of rules on entry into Abu Dhabi, and the spate of positive cases in the Chennai Super Kings camp, the IPL authorities are faced with a challenge to finalise logistics, including the tournament's schedule.
Ganguly, though, was confident of getting spectators into the grounds as the tournament progresses. Asked about how playing in front of empty stands might affect the players, he said: "Because of Covid and the infection, you don't want people to be too close to each other, but very soon you will see there will be 30% people in the ground with social distancing.
"They [will be] properly tested and allowed to enter the ground. But I think that is going to happen over a period of time."
Questions of how the lack of crowds might affect players over the duration of the tournament have been asked for a while now. Mental conditioning coach Paddy Upton feels players who thrive on external motivation and high pressure might struggle in this tournament in front of empty stadiums. Royal Challengers Bangalore captain Virat Kohli agreed it would not be easy to get used to, but he said players would adjust to it because at some point in their lives - in domestic cricket, for example - they would have played to empty galleries just for the "love of the game".
"I won't deny the fact that it's going to be difficult initially. It's going to be strange," Kohli told Royal Challengers' Bold Diaries. "Just the echo of the ball hitting the bat - I haven't experienced that since playing Ranji Trophy cricket back in 2010. So for 10 years I haven't had a game where I'm not hearing the crowd.
"But look, again, I'm going back to the point that we have done this at some point in our lives. It's important to remember that rather than saying 'oh for 10 years I'm used to this now and I won't do it if there's no crowd'.
"Those games [with no crowds], you were playing for the love of the game. The crowd factor will definitely play a part, but once you get into the game - we all love the game so much, we're just natural on the field, doing what we do best. So I think the instincts will kick in and the crowd factor will diminish quite quickly once we get into the action."