The Indian Premier League (IPL) is expected to begin on March 27, and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is confident of hosting the tournament across four venues in Maharashtra - the Wankhede Stadium, Brabourne Stadium, DY Patil Stadium and the MCA Stadium in Gahunje.

In a virtual meeting with the franchise owners on Saturday, the BCCI decided that only if the COVID-19 situation worsens in the country, the league could be moved overseas. The United Arab Emirates (UAE), which hosted IPL 2020 in its entirety and the second half of the 2021 edition, could be kept as a backup as it is a ‘tried and tested’ venue, even though a few franchises are in favour of South Africa.

Earlier, there were speculations that the tournament could be shifted to Sri Lanka or South Africa. But  Sportstar  understands that all franchises believe that the tournament should be held in India, maybe with no spectators.

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Confirming the development, BCCI president Sourav Ganguly told  Sportstar  after the meeting that the Board will take every initiative to stage the tournament at home."Yes, it will be held in India, hopefully..." Ganguly said.

Even Board secretary Jay Shah said: "I am delighted to confirm that the 15th season of the IPL will start in the last week of March and will run until May end. A majority of the team owners expressed their wish that the tournament be held in India. The BCCI was always keen on staging the 2022 edition that will see two new teams – Ahmedabad and Lucknow – in India..."

"I can tell you that we will leave no stone unturned in ensuring that IPL stays in India. The BCCI has not compromised on the health and safety of its stakeholders in the past and will concurrently work on Plan B since the COVID-19 situation with new variants remains fluid," Shah said in a statement.

Sportstar  had earlier reported that the Board had informal discussions with Mumbai Cricket Association on hosting the fixtures across Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Pune. The Board officials and franchises feel there won’t be any problem in hosting the tournament in Maharashtra as there are enough star hotels and stadiums with state of art facilities, keeping travel requirements to a bare minimum.

“As of now, we plan to host the matches without crowds, at least till the first half of the tournament. However, we are assessing the COVID-19 situation, and a final decision on the venues is expected by February 20,” a top Board official confirmed to this publication.

The franchise owners, the BCCI office-bearers and the IPL Governing Council chairman Brijesh Patel attended the virtual meeting, where it was also decided that the mega auction will go ahead as per schedule in Bengaluru on February 12 and 13 unless the COVID-19 situation deteriorates and necessitates a change of venue.

"The mega IPL Auction will take place on February 12-13th and we will lock in venues before that," Shah said.

With the addition of two new teams this time, the IPL will have 74 matches instead of 60. The franchises have been informed that the league will get over by May end. The fixtures are expected to be ready only after February 20 - once there is a final decision on the venues.

Earlier, the tournament was tentatively set to start on April 2, keeping India’s international assignments in mind. The team plays its last international game (T201) against Sri Lanka on March 18. According to the Lodha committee recommendations, there needs to be a 14-day gap between national calendar and IPL. However, with the majority of the franchises wanting the tournament to start on March 27, it needs to be seen whether the Board tweaks the dates for the Sri Lanka series.