IPL to be played outside India this year

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The Independent Online

This year's lucrative Indian Premier League Twenty20 tournament will be held outside India after the country's cricket board failed to secure government approval for its matches due to a clash of schedule with the upcoming general elections.

Shashank Manohar, Board of Control for Cricket in India president, today said organizers were looking for a venue outside India after the government refused to approve the tournament's match schedule because security forces would be preoccupied with the elections.

The second edition of the annual IPL tournament is scheduled to be held from April 10 to May 24, while the elections for the Indian Parliament's lower house will take place across the country in five different phases between April 16 and May 13.

Cricket South Africa chief Gerald Majola said his cricket board had received an official approach Sunday to be "one of several options" to host the tournament.

"We do not know what the other options are and it is not for us to comment on that," Majola said.

"At this stage we are looking forward to holding discussions with IPL officials to discuss the proposal in detail."

India's federal Home Ministry rejected two proposed itineraries from IPL organizers before advising them to speak with security agencies in the states where matches were to be played.

"We made the best of our endeavors to stage the event in India, but have to move it out of India because of existing conditions," Manohar said.

Some states gave clearance for the matches, a few refused to sanction matches until the elections were over, and at least two states changed their decision to permit matches, which Manohar said forced the BCCI to look for a foreign venue for this year.

Manohar said the organizers' options of scheduling matches shrank Saturday when the governments of Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh states reversed their earlier decision to approve matches during the April-May period.

"We're in discussion with some foreign cricket boards who have shown interest. The venue for this year's IPL will be decided soon," he said.

As well as South Africa, international media have already speculated that England is being considered as possible venues by IPL organizers.

Lalit Modi, IPL chairman and match commissioner, said he was hopeful of announcing the venue and final schedule Monday.

He maintained the tournament would be run in full with the same format and the same dates. "Even the match telecast will be at the same time for the Indian audience."

"Logistically, it's a huge challenge, we'll have a home for each of the eight teams," said Modi, who met owners and representatives of the eight city-based franchises after the BCCI's working committee decided to shift the tournament to another country."

Modi said the IPL remained "a domestic tournament being staged at an international venue.

"We need continuity in the league, we can't have a situation where the IPL was not played this year," Modi said.

"We have the availability of lots of venues in multiple countries, now we need to work out the schedule. Each team will have a home city and stadium, and preliminary league matches will be played as usual on a home and away basis."

The IPL comprises 59 matches, including two semifinals and the title contest.

Modi said there was a suggestion that the semifinals and the final be played in India, as the elections would be over by then, but it would put too much strain on cricketers who would join their respective national teams for the Twenty20 World Cup in June in England.

Indian's interior ministry had suggested that the event be deferred to start after elections, but IPL officials did not want to change the dates for the tournament as it would be difficult to find another slot on a crowded international calendar.

Some players and officials have expressed concerns about playing on the subcontinent after this month's terrorist attacks on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore, Pakistan.

Seven Sri Lankan test players, an assistant coach and a match official were among those injured in a deadly ambush by gunmen as the team traveled to Gaddafi Stadium during the second test. Six policemen and a driver were killed.

India was also the victim of a terror attack at Mumbai in November, which left 164 people dead.

Bangladesh canceled this month's cricket tour by Pakistan after authorities said they were unable to provide adequate security to a visiting team in the wake of a mutiny by border guards last month cost the lives of more than 70 people in Dhaka.

Staging the event in another country would increase the cost to organizers and the franchises, Modi said.

"It's going to be exorbitantly prohibitive to move the tournament out of the country," he said. "We may not make any profit. We're not looking at the profits, but wanted the IPL played this year, and we'll ensure that the franchises suffer no losses."