New Delhi, Mar 7: The IPL is on. The T20 cricket blitz will be rescheduled and on some days there may be three encounters squeezed in but the show will go on after IPL reworked the matches and home minister P Chidambaram said he did not want the tournament to be put off but was only concerned about ensuring adequate security.
As IPL scrambled to meet the Centre's security brief, it was decided that five matches scheduled on election days or just before or after would be rescheduled. Also, Mumbai and not Jaipur, will host the inaugural match of the 2009 IPL 2. No matches will be held on May 16 when results are declared and centres like Nagpur will benefit by staging three matches as Jaipur will now stage none.
A breakthrough was announced by IPL chief Lalit Modi, who said the timeframe - from April 10-May 24 - would not be altered. But a compromise that tried to keep the interests of the telecaster, cricket board, state associations and franchisees in mind has been arrived at. "It's been a cumbersome process," Modi said, thanking the home minister for "his clarifications".
In Hyderabad, Chidambaram said, "I did not say IPL should be postponed. The only concern was providing security to the matches when there was election in the states." While the home minister's remark was seen as a turnaround, he had left a window for negotiations when he said on Wednesday that it was for his officials and IPL to sit down and discuss whether it was possible to provide security to the tournament and elections at the same time.
For cricket fans, the good news is that IPL is on and according to Modi, "there is no question of the tournament moving to any other country or being cancelled or postponed".
A total of 14 cities have been made available, keeping election dates in mind. Nagpur, the hometown of BCCI president Shashank Manohar, could now play host to three of Team Jaipur's matches after it was learnt that the police in Rajasthan raised objections to certain matches on specific dates because of the upcoming elections. Ahmedabad is being touted as a possible venue for some of Team Kolkata and Team Chennai matches.
The matches that directly clashed with the election dates or were being held a day before the polls in different cities - Delhi vs Chennai (in Delhi on May 5), Kolkata vs Bangalore (in Kolkata on May 13), Hyderabad vs Delhi (in Hyderabad on April 16) and Mumbai vs Delhi (in Mumbai on April 28) - were the first to be dealt with.
Modi said, "We are fully prepared on security and will have a detailed briefing next week." The South Africa-based Nicholls Steyn and Associates are one of the few international security firms that the IPL has already roped in to ensure a smooth tournament.
At the BCCI office in Mumbai, officials of the IPL and the IMG spent the entire day in front of a wall-size screen that displayed several logistical and central-security issues that needed immediate revision for the government to approve.
The home ministry made inquiries with CRPF, BSF, ITBP and SSB on Friday in the wake of states' response, insisting for central forces. Though the states expressed their willingness to provide security to IPL matches, they wanted the ministry to spare minimum 200 to 500 personnel for each state even for matches to be held under the revised schedule. The Centre did not see this to be a major problem.
Home ministry sources said consultations with the states and the BCCI were still on keeping in mind revised schedules as well as the new venues - including Ahmedabad, Nagpur and others - which had come up. Accordingly, the home ministry also sought the view of Gujarat government.
"The IPL schedule and election schedule virtually overlaps. When the IPL announced the schedule, the election dates were not declared. When the EC announced the dates, naturally they did not take note of it. The schedule was overlapping completely," Chidambaram said.