Considering the COVID situation in India, which made it difficult to host the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) in the country, the prestigious T20 league has been shifted to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for this season.
The three venues in the UAE that would be hosting the games are: Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai; Sharjah Cricket Stadium, Sharjah; and Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
The UAE is no stranger to the IPL, having previously hosted the initial leg of the 2014 season due to the general elections in India. This time, it is set to host the entire tournament.
This would be the first time where only three venues would be hosting a long tournament consisting of 60 games spanning across 53 days. A general analysis of the wickets in the UAE suggests that they could be slower and offer a lot more turn than wickets in India. With the sun beating down in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, there is dry heat in contrast to the humid weather in India. The dry heat is likely to cause cracks on the pitches, thereby offering turn for the spinners. As the wickets keep getting used more and more, they will keep getting slower and assist the spin bowlers. However, the tracks are expected be be good to bat on in the initial games.
Here are the three venues:
Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai
The pitch at Dubai is a lot slower compared to the other two venues. It is the most recently constructed stadium in the UAE. Although it has a generally quick outfield, the boundaries are long. Looking at the statistics from the Pakistan Super League (PSL) 2019, the average first innings score was 143, with teams chasing winning as many as 12 games, while teams defending managed to win only twice. The pitch in Dubai will be helpful for the spinners in particular, with wickets on the slower side.
Sharjah Cricket Stadium, Sharjah
The pitch at Sharjah is traditionally a flat surface that will aid slightly quicker scoring as compared to the other venues. This implies, that apart from it being slow and helping spinners, it will suit hard-hitting batsmen as the ball travels well at this venue and it also has the shortest boundaries of the three grounds. The average first innings total in PSL 2019 at this venue was 156, with teams batting second winning nine out of 12 matches.
Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi
The wicket at Abu Dhabi can tend to be juicy, which means it can offer some bounce as well. The pitch has some grass, which could be of help to the quicker bowlers. This ground has long boundaries and does not have the quickest of outfields. Quite evidently, the average first innings total in T20 Internationals at this venue since 2017 (between top teams) has been a modest 132. This wicket could prove beneficial for fast bowlers who can bowl slower balls, off-cutters and have good variation.
Incidentally, the UAE leg of IPL 2014 had almost similar stats to show as that of PSL 2019, as far as average first innings scores are concerned: 147 at Abu Dhabi, 158 at Sharjah and 149 at Dubai. While Sharjah is slated to host 12 games, Abu Dhabi will host 20 and Dubai will stage 24 games this season. The schedule for the play-offs is yet to be released by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).