Mumbai Indians to host CSK in IPL 2020 opener on March 29

Rohit Sharma and MS Dhoni pose with the IPL Trophy before the toss BCCI

The first match of the 2020 IPL will be a repeat of last year's final with defending champions the Mumbai Indians taking on the Chennai Super Kings at the Wankhede Stadium on March 29. The tournament will start only 11 days after India's home ODI series against South Africa ends on March 18 in Kolkata. The IPL will release the schedule for the knockouts later, but the final is scheduled for May 24.

Although the IPL is yet to make an official announcement, ESPNcricinfo has seen the schedule that was sent to the franchises, with only the league phase dates out yet. The last league game is scheduled for May 17, between the Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai in Bengaluru.

In a first, the IPL has decided not to have any double-headers on Saturdays. There will be three matches over the weekends with double-headers now only limited to Sundays, except on March 29 and May 17 - the opening and closing dates of the league phase - when only one match is scheduled.

To accommodate the extra matches which originally would have been held on Saturdays at 4pm, the IPL has added an extra week to the league phase, which will now stretch to 50 days compared to last year's 44. The IPL had also decided recently to stick to evening matches commencing at 8pm IST despite reservations from host broadcaster Star Sports, which was sceptical about games stretching past midnight. The afternoon matches will start at 4pm IST, as usual.

Barring the Rajasthan Royals, all the other seven franchises have retained their original home bases. The Royals, who start the tournament last, on April 2 in Chennai, have shortlisted a second home venue in Guwahati where they want to host their second and third matches, scheduled for April 5 (against the Delhi Capitals) and April 9 (against the Kolkata Knight Riders). However, officials from the Rajasthan Cricket Association, which owns the Jaipur ground that has been the first home base of the Royals, has objected to the franchise picking Guwahati as the second home venue and has filed pleas in the court.

One of the possible reasons for the Royals starting their tournament last could be around the availability of their key overseas players, including captain Steven Smith, allrounder Ben Stokes and wicketkeeper-batsman Jos Buttler. With England's two-match Test series in Sri Lanka scheduled to be played between March 19 and 31, the ECB had told the IPL authorities that the English players would be available from April 1.

Cricket Australia and New Zealand Cricket, too, had also informed the IPL that their players would be available only after March 30 their last T20I is scheduled for March 29 in Christchurch. Some of the Australian players will also feature in the Sheffield Shield final which is scheduled from March 27-31.

Despite the RM Lodha Committee recommending that there be a fortnight's break between any international cricket played by India and the IPL, the 2020 edition will have only an 11 days' gap. Last year, India's last international match - an ODI against Australia on March 13 - was played only 10 days before the IPL opener, but the Committee of Administrators, that ran the BCCI then, had allowed it as an exception as it was a World Cup year.

It is not yet known when exactly the IPL will schedule the All Stars match, which is likely to be held three days before the tournament begins. The all-star fixture will comprise players from all eight franchises, likely to be formed with players from the four franchises in the north and east of India - Kings XI Punjab, the Capitals, the Royals and the Knight Riders - and the other four teams in the south and west - the Super Kings, the Royal Challengers, the Sunrisers and Mumbai.