Indian Premier League (IPL) teams could play games at the Kia Oval and Lord’s as soon as this year under plans being pushed by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.
Surrey cricket chiefs have already held exploratory talks with figures from the IPL and the Indian game’s governing body, the BCCI. A September date has been mooted.
It is hoped that hosting teams from the IPL, the game’s most high-profile Twenty20 competition, could deliver a major financial boost to domestic cricket, which has been badly affected by the pandemic.
London regularly stages matches involving NFL teams from the US and in 2019 hosted Major League Baseball (MLB).
Khan said: “Surrey are speaking to teams in India and colleagues in the BCCI and IPL. The first step will be friendlies and exhibition matches.
“We want to get them going, maybe even this year if we make progress as we are doing with the pandemic. It has to be Covid-safe, of course.
“We have to bang the drum for our city, and sport is one way to do this.”
Surrey and Lord’s owners MCC have confirmed their backing for the plans.
“We support the Mayor of London’s ambitions to bring the Indian Premier League to London and are keen to work with the administration to make this a reality,” they said.
“The incredible energy, diversity and passion of the crowds at both our venues during the Men’s ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 demonstrated London’s extraordinary potential as a home for global games.
“Following in the footsteps of the NFL and MLB by bringing one of the world’s largest leagues to the capital, would be a hugely exciting project for our city and the wider game in this country.”
Have IPL teams played overseas before?
The IPL – the 2021 edition of which began on Friday – has played fixtures in South Africa and the UAE but only when playing in India was not possible for political or public health reasons.
Rajasthan Royals, which has forged links in England, played Middlesex at Lord’s in 2009 but that experiment has not been repeated.
There is no indication yet that the IPL is seeking to play overseas this year and there remain a number of potential stumbling blocks, including scheduling and India’s Covid rates.
Talk of greater collaboration between English and Indian cricket has escalated in recent months.
Figures involved with the IPL are keen to take stakes in The Hundred if the England and Wales Cricket Board opens the door to outside investment in its new competition.
Such a move would pave the way for India to drop its ban on Indian players taking part and significantly increase The Hundred’s international commercial appeal.