Indian Premier League returns to India, without spectators initially

Last year's edition of the popular Twenty20 competition was held in UAE

  
Workers install a hoarding renaming the world's largest cricket stadium after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as fans wait to enter before the start of the third test match between India and England in Ahmedabad, India, February 24, 2021.

Workers install a hoarding renaming the world's largest cricket stadium after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as fans wait to enter before the start of the third test match between India and England in Ahmedabad, India, February 24, 2021.

REUTERS/Amit Dave

NEW DELHI - The popular Indian Premier League (IPL) will begin in Chennai on April 9 and will be played across six venues, initially without spectators, the Indian cricket board said on Sunday.

The world's richest Twenty20 competition was shifted to the United Arab Emirates last year as India grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sunday's IPL governing council meeting decided to bring the tournament home but the pandemic forced several changes to how it would be played.

"The IPL this year at home will be played behind closed doors to begin with and a call on allowing spectators will be taken at a later stage of the tournament," Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) secretary Jay Shah said in a statement.

Ahmedabad's Narendra Modi Stadium will host the playoffs as well as the May 30 final, with Bengaluru, Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata being the other venues.

Defending champions Mumbai Indians will take on Royal Challengers Bangalore, led by India captain Virat Kohli, in the first match.

The tournament's eight teams will play all their matches at neutral venues.

"The fixtures of the tournament have been mapped in a way that every team will travel only three times during the league stage, thus reducing commute and minimising risk," Shah said.

"After hosting the tournament safely and successfully in the UAE last year ... the BCCI is confident of hosting the IPL at home with health and safety of players and all people involved being paramount," he added.

Smartphone maker Vivo returned as title sponsor of the league after pulling out of last year's tournament amid a backlash against Chinese firms in India.

South African Chris Morris became IPL's most expensive buy in the players' auction last month after Rajasthan Royals bought him for a staggering $2.22 million. 

(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; Editing by Christopher Cushing) ((amlan.chakraborty@thomsonreuters.com; Twitter: @Amlan_Reuters))

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