APRIL FOOLS: Bulawayo to host IPL matches; outfield concerns cause Port Elizabeth to pull out

Posted by brmtaylor.com admin on April 01, 2009

St George's Park in Port Elizabeth, which was due to host 8 matches of the upcoming Indian Premier League, has been withdrawn from the official Indian Premier League fixture list. Associated Press has reported that IPL officials, touring the South African venues, found the outfield to be of a poor standard and were concerned that it could not be improved to a suitable standard by April 20th, when it's first match was scheduled.

"It was a question over the state of [the] outfield. All other facilities were acceptable, but taking player welfare into account relocating the eight matches to Bulawayo was the safest option", said Amrit Mathur, the Delhi Daredevils franchise CEO and leader of the IPL's venue appropriation task force.

Zimbabwe Cricket stepped in and offered the use of its facilities at Queens Sports Club, which has hosted 17 Tests and 37 ODI's since 1994, as the ground was available for the entire duration of the IPL.

"With the Harare grounds unavailable due to ongoing domestic commitments, we were quick to offer our assistance to our friends from the IPL", Wilfred Mukondiwa, the ZC general manager, told AP. "As part of our pledge to bring more high class cricket to Zimbabwe's second largest city, offering the Queens ground was the obvious choice".

A major factor in the decision was that Port Elizabeth and Bulawayo are in the same timezone, meaning that the start times do not need to be altered which would have caused interuptions to television viewers in India.

"There was the matter of artifical lighting in Bulawayo for the 8pm starts", said Mukondiwa, "Currently Queens has no stadium lights, but ZC has received assurances from the IPL that they will fund a permanent set of stadium lights complete with diesel generators to power them, due to the intermittant power supply. They will also provide the diesel... due to the intermittant fuel supply".

Besides the funding for lighting and a substantial financial reward reported to be in the millions, there was an agreement that Zimbabwe could enter a team into the IPL. The BCCI recommended the idea, as part of their commitment to giving Zimbabwe ample preparation for their return to Test cricket. Zimbabwe will play 3 matches, one each against Chennai Super Kings, Deccan Chargers and Royal Challengers Bangalore.

Revised fixtures including Bulawayo (all matches at Queens Sports Club).

April 20: Royal Challengers Bangalore V Chennai Super Kings (8 pm) in Bulawayo
April 23: Kolkata Knight Riders v Rajasthan Royals (8 pm) in Bulawayo
April 26: Royal Challengers Bangalore v Delhi Daredevils (4 pm) Bulawayo
April 27: Kolkata Knight Riders v Mumbai Indians (8 pm) in Bulawayo
April 28: Zimbabwe v Chennai Super Kings (4 pm) in Bulawayo
May 2: Rajasthan Royals v Deccan Chargers (4 pm) in Bulawayo
May 3: Kings XI Punjab v Kolkata Knight Riders (4 pm) in Bulawayo
May 4: Zimbabwe v Deccan Chargers (4 pm) in Bulawayo
May 8: Zimbabwe v Royal Challengers Bangalore (4 pm) in Bulawayo
May 10: Royal Challengers Bangalore v Mumbai Indians (4 pm) in Bulawayo
May 16: Chennai Super Kings v Mumbai Indians (4 pm) in Bulawayo