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NEW DELHI : The Board of Control for Cricket (BCCI) may be working on finalising whether to keep the Indian Premier League (IPL) in India, but IPL franchises have made their preference for India as the venue quite clear.

People familiar with the business of cricket in India said this could be because sponsors like the matches to be played in the country for reasons for brand promotions and activations. Venky Mysore, CEO and managing director of Kolkata Knight Riders said they are fully supportive of the idea of bringing IPL back to India after a gap of two years. "Staging it in a city like Mumbai which has at least three international quality grounds and, perhaps, Pune, will balance the health and safety requirements as well and will be a welcome move. Should the Covid situation improve and the administrators allow spectators to some extent, that would make it even more enjoyable."

Another team owner Parth Jindal, director of JSW Sports, that currently runs Delhi-based IPL Team Delhi Capitals said different countries are hosting their own sports leagues within their countries with appropriate covid protocols in place. "It is the Indian Premier League and not International and it should stay here," said Jindal.

According to a sports marketing executive, the clamour for holding the league matches at home is more for emotional reasons rather than business reasons. “Bio bubbles and not allowing in-stadia spectators leaves no room for sponsor promotions, meet and greet with players or merchandise sale. So, it does not really matter where the matches are held since majority of the money will flow from TV sponsorship," he said, declining to be named.

However, Indian cricketers are more comfortable playing at home as the pitches are known, he added.

Last Saturday, the BCCI held a meeting with IPL team post which BCCI secretary Jay Shah said the 15th season of the IPL will start in the last week of March and will run until May end. Shah said that a majority of the team owners had expressed their wish that the tournament is held here and that the BCCI was keen on staging the 2022 edition that will see two new teams – Ahmedabad and Lucknow – in India. Team owners have been given a choice between India, South Africa and UAE.

"I can tell you that we will leave no stone unturned in ensuring that IPL stays in India. The BCCI has not compromised on the health and safety of its stakeholders in the past and will concurrently work on Plan B since the COVID-19 situation with new variants remains fluid. The mega IPL Auction will take place on February 12-13th and we will lock in venues before that," said Shah.

Sports expert Joy Bhattacharjya who is also vice president of Baseline Ventures India, a sports marketing, brand licensing and athlete representation firm, said teams and organisers both have sponsors and simply having the players in India, gives them a little more opportunity to do things here. However, he said that the BCCI in the past had failed to maintain the bubble in India and therefore IPL had to be shifted outside.

"They (BCCI) will want to correct that and prove that they can do it here. The big worry, though, that I have is that the bubble worked very well the first time around, since it was very strict. The big problem now could be that the systems in India can collapse in a situation where they can be manipulated," added Bhattacharjya. A sports marketing expert, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that BCCI is actively considering Plan B outside India to be on the safe side and may be looking at South Africa.

But JSW’s Jindal said, "For a lot of us, we want to be in India because why should we give any other cricket board (like UAE’s, for instance) that kind of power. There's a lot more excitement about the IPL here," he added. Mint also reached out to Mumbai Indians and Punjab Kings but did not receive any responses till time of press.

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