By Avinash Kr Atish
New Delhi, Mar 26 (IANS): After a three-year hiatus, the much-awaited Indian Premier League (IPL) is returning to its traditional home and away format this season, with home ground advantage and local fan support set to play a crucial role for the teams.
Ever since the start of IPL in 2008, the matches were played in home and away format, but the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 put a halt to this, forcing the organisers to look for alternatives.
As a result, the cash-rich league was played behind closed doors across three venues in the UAE -- Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi -- in 2020.
In 2021 too, the tournament was held across four venues -- Delhi, Ahmedabad, Mumbai and Chennai. The four stadia of Maharashtra hosted all the league matches of the IPL 2022 season, except the playoffs and the final which were held in Kolkata and Ahmedabad, respectively.
However, with the pandemic now under control, the IPL is returning to its old format in which each team plays home and away matches.
With the league returning to its traditional format, teams will look to take home advantage. Over the years, certain teams have converted their home venues into fortresses. They have used factors such as better knowledge of the pitch, ground dimensions and a settled combination to their advantage and it will be no different this year as well.
For example, Chennai Super Kings (CSK) will return to M.A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai, where their spinners will play a big role, while Mumbai Indians will enjoy the pace and bounce at Wankhede Stadium. Likewise, every team will have home conditions in their favour and will prepare pitches according to the strength of their squads.
And the introduction of the 'Impact Player' rule will also add that interesting element to different playing conditions at different venues.
The likes of Gujarat Titans and Lucknow Super Giants are only one season old, so it will be interesting to see how they take advantage of their home grounds in Ahmedabad and Lucknow, respectively. The franchises might have also picked the players during the auction keeping the home and away format in mind.
Apart from home ground, the support of local fans has also been a vital thing for teams during the cricket carnival. The presence of fans not only helps franchises commercially, it also gives cricketers that extra motivation to perform. When teams are down, it's the fans who uplift them.
There are teams in the IPL which are yet to win the title, but their fan-following is top-notch. Due to no home games, players were deprived of the support of the local fans in the last few years. However, the IPL is once again ready to witness stadia packed with fans.
All the top cricketers, including Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli, have spoken about fans' support in the past, so they will be thrilled to witness their presence. With one week left for the beginning of IPL 2023, different fan clubs are already creating buzz on social media, so one can imagine the atmosphere in the stadia once the tournament gets underway.
With few innovations, home ground advantage and local fan support, India is ready to witness the biggest cricketing festival over the next two months in different parts of the country.