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‘Perception’ costs UAE chance to host IPL VII in case of a shift

- SA looks to be the only alternative for first half

Bangalore: The “perception” that a dominant wing of the fixing mafia operates out of Dubai, the most glamorous Emirate, has made it all in South Africa’s favour if the first half of IPL VII has to be moved out of India.

As the tournament (April 9-June 3 window) is expected to clash with the general elections, it could have to be played in another country as well.

Ranjib Biswal, the IPL chairman, acknowledged that “South Africa” was an option, but he didn’t talk about Dubai and the neighbouring Emirates of Sharjah and Abu Dhabi.

However, well-placed sources revealed that a “recce” of South Africa, the venues in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Bangladesh, had actually been done.

Sri Lanka got ruled out because of “seasonal rain,” which may ruin the edition.

Till the other day, venues in the UAE were being “favoured” for the first half, largely owing to “logistical reasons.” But there has since been a rethink.

“The public’s perception matters and, all along, there’s been a suspicion that the underworld controls the betting and fixing from Dubai, with associates in Mumbai and Karachi...

“At a time when the credibility of the property is being questioned, why risk unnecessary negative publicity? Nobody has forgotten the impression created in the 1980s and in the 1990s about Sharjah,” one of the well-placed sources said on Thursday.

Speaking to The Telegraph on condition of anonymity, an owner of one of the franchises bluntly stated: “I’ve always been wary of travelling to Dubai, in particular, for one never knows who’ll slide up to you and have a photograph taken...

“What if that person turns out to be the undesirable sort? I hope IPL VII is held in India only.”

That South Africa hosted the second edition, in 2009, and has superb infrastructure, has clinched it. The one disadvantage is the distance, but a way will be found to “compensate” the franchises.

Bangladesh is closer than the UAE, but there were doubts over the fans’ response as the event will be held after two big tournaments — the Asia Cup and the World T20.

Of course, before the South Africa decision is formally made, Biswal and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) secretary, Sanjay Patel, will meet Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and his ministry’s officials to get a “clear picture.”

The meetings could take place next week.

Meanwhile, a working committee meeting of the BCCI has been called in Bhubaneswar, Biswal’s home turf, on February 28. That will be preceded by a meeting of the IPL’s governing council.

“If the first half of IPL VII has to be held in South Africa, then that shift must be ratified by the working committee. That’s why the meeting in Bhubaneswar,” one of the well-placed sources explained.

It will be a first for Bhubaneswar.