IPL 2020 can become a global benchmark, stresses Uday Shankar | Cricket News

MUMBAI: Uday Shankar, chairman at Star India and the man working to bring the Indian Premier League’s 13th edition to viewers in India and across the world, says “even before a single ball has been bowled, this has already become the most unique IPL”.
Shankar spoke to TOI on what’s in play as the league gears up for action in the middle of a pandemic.
Excerpts
What were the last four-five months about?
Here we were, set for a very high-quality, intense IPL in March and suddenly the BCCI informed us that the tournament wasn’t possible. Obviously, there were clear reasons for that. People’s lives were more important and live sport was no exception. But it was frustrating too.
When did you first realise IPL was going to be possible?
We had a certain amount of confidence that given the slightest opportunity, IPL would happen. That the BCCI had to cancel it because of obvious reasons was the right thing to do but they were also committed to making it happen. We did realise it would take place post monsoon. The only question was whether it would be played in India or abroad.
How important is it for this IPL to happen?
There are literally very few assets that move an entire country like IPL. At a time when the country has been gripped by concerns, fears, apprehensions, and people have mostly been spending time locked indoors, something as important to their lives as the IPL has come back which is highly symbolic and truly unique.
Stakes are high too…
IPL is India’s only global brand and one of the top sports properties worldwide. The fact that BCCI and we are very committed to make it happen within a bubble of safety is a huge source of relief and I’m thankful to the Board.
Star has been working on its own bio-secure bubble…
To deliver an exciting IPL, while keeping every crew and team member totally safe from the pandemic remains our top priority. It’s not an easy one because there are no global role models for something like this.
IPL has been played outside India twice (2009, 2014), but this is different…
The protocol we’ve designed for this IPL can become a global benchmark for any tournament to be held safely. We’ll be doing it at three stadiums with 700+ crew and around 90 commentators working across UAE, India and globally to operate under Covid-related SOPs for 60-75 days. There’ll be a bio-secure bubble in Mumbai to entail 400-plus staffers across six floors of the production facility. Rigorous testing protocols for all staffers entailing pre-screening, testing before entry, and periodic testing during stay.
That’s serious responsibility…
The onus is on us to take this responsibility. Every year it’s a professional commitment but this year’s IPL is professional and personal. In the end, it’s a virus and anything can happen, but we would like to put our best foot forward.
What is the scale of viewership you’re looking at?
I can only hope viewership is bigger than ever. There will be seven fully customized broadcast feeds across languages and 18 hours of live and special programming. We expect TV viewership of 550 million+ in India across live broadcast and beyond live programming and the broadcast to be distributed in over 100 countries.

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