The Indian Premier League will stay in the country despite a speculated clash of dates with the general elections but the glitzy T20 extravaganza will start earlier than usual, from March 23, the Committee of Administrators (COA) announced on Tuesday.
The two-member COA, comprising chairman Vinod Rai and former women's captain Diana Edulji, met in New Delhi to discuss the venues and window for the league.
"We will have all the primary venues backed up by alternate venues in case there is a need to shift matches. This will be done in consultation with central and state government authorities as well as security agencies," Rai said.
"The specific reason for having a back-up venue is to ensure that we don't have any issue if there is polling or recounting or PM's rally in any of the states once the election dates are announced," he added.
The last time the IPL started in March was back in 2010. After that, the league has always kicked off in the first half of April and ended in late May.
The early start this year is because of the ODI World Cup in England which will get underway from May 30.
Rai said the specific venues and match dates will worked out later after due consultation with government agencies.
"Once we chalk out the itinerary, we will get the dates and venues cleared by various govt agencies," he said.
The decision ends months of speculation about the league's venue this year given the possibility of a clash of dates with the Lok Sabha elections, the schedule of which is not yet out.
It is learnt that the T20 tournament has been kept in the country keeping in view the fact that the elections will be held in phases and it wouldn't be too much of a logistical issue to schedule the games accordingly.
"The COA will have detailed discussion with all the Stakeholders before releasing the IPL 2019 Schedule," a BCCI statement read.
As per the new BCCI constitution, there has to be a 15-day gap between the end of the IPL and India's international engagements.
The IPL has been played outside India twice due to general elections. In 2009, the edition was moved to South Africa, while in 2014, some games were played in the UAE.
That the IPL will stay in the country was first hinted by BCCI officials during the players' auction in Jaipur last month.
"We are trying our best to ensure that not a single match is taken out of the country," BCCI acting secretary Amitabh Choudhary had said during the IPL Players' Auction in December.