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KKR to face MI in IPL VII opener

Calcutta: The United Arab Emirates has been awarded hosting rights of 20 matches of the first leg of the seventh edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL).

The IPL governing council announced the schedule for the first phase of the tournament after a meeting in Chennai on Wednesday.

The opening match of the tournament will see defending champions Mumbai Indians squaring off against the Kolkata Knight Riders, in Abu Dhabi, on April 16.

“At its meeting in Chennai… the IPL governing council confirmed that the first phase of the Pepsi IPL 2014 season matches will be played in the United Arab Emirates, from Wednesday April 16th to Wednesday April 30th,” the Board of Control for Cricket in India said in a release.

The matches will be played in three stadiums — the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi; the Sharjah Cricket Association Stadium, Sharjah; and the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai.

The fixtures has been drawn such that every team plays five games each in the UAE, in the first phase.

Apart from the tournament opener against Mumbai Indians, the Knight Riders play the Delhi Daredevils (April 19), Royal Challengers Bangalore (April 24), Kings XI Punjab (April 26) and Rajasthan Royals (April 29) in the UAE-leg of the competition.

The BCCI also hopes that IPL matches could be held in India from the first week of May itself. Earlier, the BCCI had Bangladesh in mind as the hosts to stage 12 matches from May 1-12 if the Union home ministry doesn’t okay a proposal for action within the country in that period.

“Pursuant to the initiative taken by the ministry of home affairs, government of India, many state governments have indicated that IPL matches can be conducted in their respective states. Based on the responses received so far, the BCCI believes that IPL 2014 can be conducted in India from the first week of May,” the BCCI said in the media release.

“Franchises are not in favour of having any of the matches in Bangladesh. That’s why we’re trying our best to ensure the second phase, too, is held in India itself,” said an IPL governing council member.

The Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB), in this regard, went a step ahead and said it could stage some IPL VII matches even if they coincide with election dates.

“We’ll appeal to the administration here to let Eden Gardens host some matches even if they clash with election dates,” CAB joint secretary Subir Ganguly said.

The IPL has been partly moved out of India for security reasons as its schedule is clashing with the general elections, scheduled to be held in nine phases from April 7 to May 12. The last leg of the IPL, from May 13, including the play-offs and the final slated for June 1, will be held in India.

This is the second time the event has had to be forced out of the country due to elections. In 2009, the entire tournament had to be shifted to South Africa, a country which was in contention to host the event this time too.