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‘Integrity’ will be protected, UAE govt assures the BCCI

- IPL VII
- April 16 start; Bangla may also host; Last phase in India

Calcutta: An “assurance” from the UAE government that it would do everything to “protect the integrity” of the IPL went a long way in persuading the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to stage the first 16 matches, at least, of edition No.7 in the Gulf state.

The window is between April 16-30.

“We’ve received an assurance from the UAE government that it would leave no stone unturned to ensure that the integrity of the IPL and the game itself didn’t suffer at all. We have no reason to believe things would be otherwise,” IPL chairman Ranjib Biswal told The Telegraph on Wednesday.

The integrity issue is absolutely critical as there’s a “strong perception” that a powerful arm of the fixing mafia operates out of Dubai, one of the three Emirates (others being Abu Dhabi and Sharjah) that will host the IPL.

“Also, the International Cricket Council is headquartered in Dubai and, so, its anti-corruption wing will monitor the IPL closely. We’ve ourselves tightened a lot of things since IPL VI,” Biswal added.

That the IPL’s title sponsor, Pepsi, has a strong presence in the UAE is another factor which swung it for the Gulf state.

Pepsi isn’t strong in South Africa, one of the reasons why Nelson Mandela’s country lost out.

Another, of course, is the cost factor. Apparently, a “very attractive” financial package played its part too.

The time difference — a more acceptable 90 minutes vis-a-vis three-and-a-half hours — worked in the UAE’s favour as well.

Finally, even South Africa is due to have general elections!

However, it’s unlikely that every franchise owner will be delighted with the choice of the UAE. Some have reservations, driven by the “strong perception” bit.

Recently, one of the owners had been blunt while speaking to this Reporter. “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?”

According to Biswal, Bangladesh could stage 12 matches if the Union home ministry doesn’t okay a proposal for action within the country from May 1-12.

That the first half could be hosted by the UAE and Bangladesh had been reported in these columns on March 1.

The other day, Bangladesh was favoured to stage the first 16 matches, but there was a quick rethink on two counts: After two mega events (Asia Cup, World T20), nobody is sure how the wickets would behave and, secondly, fans could become tired of too much cricket featuring big names.

Biswal and the BCCI are confident of hosting at least 32 matches within the country between May 13-June 1. May 16, the day of counting for the April 7-May 12 general elections, will be a day off for the IPL.

The BCCI has had to work overtime because of the general elections. But, unlike in 2009, the entire IPL isn’t moving overseas.

Also, Biswal has made it a point to work with the Union home ministry and not flaunt what the BCCI could do at short notice.