Money-spinning Indian Premier League to return from March 22

Chennai Super Kings' players celebrate with the trophy after their victory against Gujarat Titans in the Indian Premier League final last year

Chennai Super Kings' players celebrate with the trophy after their victory against Gujarat Titans in the Indian Premier League final last year. Photo: Sajjad Hussain/AFP

Published Feb 22, 2024

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The money-spinning Indian Premier League will likely begin its next season on March 22 but will keep its fixtures flexible to accommodate the country's mammoth general election, the national cricket board announced Thursday.

Defending champions Chennai Super Kings, led by 42-year-old former India captain M.S. Dhoni, will face Royal Challengers Bangalore in the first match of the world's most popular and lucrative Twenty20 league.

But the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) only announced the season's first 21 matches, tentatively scheduled through to April 7, and said in a statement the schedule could be revised after India's election was called.

"The BCCI will work in tandem with local authorities to finalize the schedule for the remainder of the season, taking into account the polling dates," the statement said.

Elections in India — the world's largest democracy, with 1.4 billion people — are gargantuan endeavours, with polling staged by region across several weeks.

The election commission is expected to announce polling dates sometime in the next month.

All fixtures announced so far — less than a third of the 74 matches played in 2023 — will take place on Indian soil despite earlier seasons being played outside the country when they clashed with elections.

South Africa hosted the tournament for its second edition in 2009 and the United Arab Emirates in 2014, although it was played in India during 2019 polls.

The IPL is the world's richest cricket league and has proven a cash bonanza for both the BCCI and top players.

Australia fast bowlers Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins both set records in the tournament's most recent player auction in December.

Starc was snapped up by Kolkata Knight Riders for 247.5 million rupees ($2.98 million), setting an all-time IPL auction record, while World Cup-winning skipper Cummins went to Sunrisers Hyderabad for 205 million rupees ($2.47 million).

AFP

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IPLIndiaT20Cricket