The 2023 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) got underway on the final day of March, with fans once again able to enjoy the full, vivid experience of the world’s most lucrative T20 cricket competition for the first time since 2019.

IPL 2023 commenced with defending champions the Gujarat Titans defeating the Chennai Super Kings by five wickets in front of a crowd of over 100,000 at Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad. However, from a fan experience perspective, the most significant enhancements are being activated outside the stadia.

The League is returning to its traditional format across venues throughout the country for the first time since 2019, and with this also comes the return of the IPL Fan Parks concept.

Expanded concept

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), in its efforts to broaden the IPL’s reach across the country and the world, initiated the concept in 2015. However, the Fan Parks had been shelved since 2019 as the organisation sought to deal with the challenges of staging one of the world’s biggest sporting events during the COVID-19 era.

However, the Fan Parks are returning for 2023, spread across 45 cities, 20 states and two union territories this season. The opening game saw a Fan Park established in Madurai in the state of Tamil Nadu, with the thinking behind the concept being to take the IPL experience to fans in cities where games are not held.

The BCCI has pledged to offer an “exciting and entertaining community-viewing experience” with up to five Fan Parks staged simultaneously every weekend throughout the tournament. For the final itself, which is set to be held on May 28, there will be Fan Parks held across Jammu, Jamshedpur, Palakkad, Jorhat and Bhopal.

IPL Fan Parks seek to offer a match-like environment for those who are unable to attend games. Live screenings of contests on giant screens are accompanied by food and beverage offerings, music and other entertainment.

Sharing the experience

After staging IPL 2022 across Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata and Ahmedabad, the League’s 16th season has reverted to the home and away format, where all 10 franchises will play seven home games and seven away games, respectively, in the league stage.

A total of 70 league stage matches are being played across 12 venues over the course of 52 days, before the IPL enters its playoff phase. While the majority of teams are choosing to maintain one home base, there are two that are seeking to share the IPL experience across multiple locations, adding to the sense that this year’s edition is taking the thrill of the competition across the country.

Rajasthan Royals will play their first two home games in Guwahati before switching to their traditional base of Jaipur. Punjab Kings, meanwhile, are due to stage their first five home matches in Mohali, before heading to Dharamshala for their final two regular season fixtures.

The IPL’s return to its purest experience comes after the 2020 season was held in the United Arab Emirates due to the COVID-19 situation in India. The 2021 season did open in India before a rise in COVID-19 cases forced the tournament to be suspended, with the UAE ultimately stepping in again to host the remainder of the event.

Last year, the league phase took place at three venues in Mumbai (Wankhede Stadium, Brabourne Stadium and DY Patil Stadium), along with MCA International Stadium in Pune. The playoffs were held at Eden Gardens in Kolkata and Narendra Modi Stadium.

However, by bringing a match-like experience to fans across India through the Fan Parks, there are hopes that the 2023 edition will herald a glorious return to normality for this iconic and enthralling cricket spectacle.

Image: Saikat Das / SPORTZPICS / IPL
CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 

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