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IPL 2022: Crowds curtailed, but the spirit fizzier than ever

The much-awaited sports breather – Indian Premier League 2022 – which starts in Mumbai on Saturday will be a truncated affair as far as the cheering crowds go, yet it promises to be bubbling with enthusiasm as never before.

For, the pleased organizers say, that despite the Covid-19 restrictions, all the tickets for all matches are practically sold-out and the venues shall proudly sport the ‘Housefull’ signs.

The IPL-2022 will be kickstarted at the dazzling opening match between the defending champions, Chennai Super Kings versus Kolkata Knight Riders, at Wankhede Stadium.

In an unprecedented development in its 15-year history, this year, 95 percent of the IPL tourneys shall be held in Mumbai, Thane, and Pune (Maharashtra), and the rest in Ahmedabad (Gujarat).

The matches shall be held at Mumbai’s Brabourne Stadium (capacity 20,000, the smallest venue), Wankhede Stadium (33,000), D.Y. Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai, Thane (55,000, the biggest venue), and the MCA Stadium of Pune (capacity 37,000).

With the total strength of these four stadia coming to about 145,000, only 25 percent – or around 36,000 – cricket-crazy fans are all set to clap and whistle or boo and hoot, at their favorite or not-so-favored teams and players at these venues over the next fun-filled nine weeks of IPL-2022 schedule.

An MCA office-bearer said that considering Maharashtra — the worst-hit in the past two years of the Covid-19 pandemic – has just emerged into the ‘green zone’, strict Covid protocols shall be implemented at all venues hosting the events.

“There shall be random temperature checks of the visitors, face-masks will be compulsory, sanitizers available at suitable locations, crowds shall be controlled by the police and our own security, cleanliness and other hygiene measures will be enforced, etc,” said the office-bearer, requesting anonymity.

In Mumbai, the biggest venue for several matches, there were certain security concerns of alleged terror threats, but these were dismissed by the Mumbai Police, sending a wave of relief among the organizers.

There was a minor incident of an IPL team bus being vandalized by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena activists here last week, sparking fresh worries.

However, the Mumbai Police quickly rushed in, nabbed at least 5 MNS men, beefed up security at the deluxe hotels where the cricket legends are staying, and also at the two stadia, besides Thane and Pune, as a precaution.

Given the congested localities of south Mumbai where the Brabourne Stadium and Wankhede Stadium are situated, the Mumbai Police, in coordination with the organizers and Traffic Police, have deployed special arrangements to ensure there are no vehicular snarls at least 500 meters from the venue, before and after the matches.

However, traffic concerns are not serious at the D.Y. Patil Stadium of Thane and Pune’s MCA Stadium, though there will be normal restrictions on the entry-exit for all vehicles.

Of the total 74 matches to be played between March 26 and May 29, 20 shall be played at Wankhede Stadium, 16 at Brabourne Stadium, 19 at the D.Y. Patil stadium, and 15 at MCA Stadium in Pune.

Besides, the two Qualifiers, one Eliminator and the Grand Finale shall be fought out on the pitches in Ahmedabad in the last week of May.

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