THE Indian Premier League is a sporting phenomenon. The first four weeks of the 2019 edition of the T20 cricket tournament drew a staggering total of 462 million domestic television viewers, with many more tuning in from all around the globe.

With Indian stadia out of commission this year because of Covid-related difficulties, all those eyes will be drawn instead to the UAE where the 2020 version has relocated.

The opening game between the Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings takes place on Saturday in Abu Dhabi and one Scot will have a particular vested interest.

Dougie Brown has enjoyed a peripatetic career, the former all-rounder turning out for both Scotland and England as well as Warwickshire during his playing days before coaching Namibia at the 2003 World Cup and then taking charge of the UAE until earlier this year.

He has chosen to remain in the Emirates after leaving that post, taking on the position of Director of Cricket at the Abu Dhabi club.

The careful management of the IPL operation has made it difficult for Brown to get too close but he is excited about the prospect of one of the world’s fastest growing sporting events pitching up on his doorstep.

“We built an air bridge so the IPL players didn’t have to isolate for 14 days at their hotel when they arrived and also created a bio-bubble at the stadium that can only be accessed by the players,” he explained. “So we can see them from a distance but not get too close.

“But I know that preparations have been going really well and I’m really looking forward to the event starting. Even if we can’t get fans into the ground you know there are going to be hundreds of millions of people watching every game on TV.

“The Indian supporters are fanatical about the IPL so it’s going to be great exposure for Abu Dhabi and the region as a whole to be hosting it. It’s a pretty buoyant atmosphere around the place at the moment.”

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While Brown will no doubt continue to enjoy that buzz as the seven-week tournament progresses, he has a day job to focus on, too.

“I coached the T10 franchise here last year with Trevor Bayliss and I’m going to be taking charge of that team this year,” he explained. “And on top of that I’m in charge of the whole development pathway at Abu Dhabi.

“It’s an amazing facility that hosts lots of different sports and they’ve got some really good ideas about where they want to take their cricket.

“My job is to develop a steady supply of players ready to feature in the first team. It will take a bit of time but we have a really talented group of youngsters in the academy who will be pushing really hard to get themselves an opportunity down the line.”

His last post was a demanding one, too, none more so than last year when a number of his players were suspended on charges of corruption at the time of the T20 World Cup Qualifier.

The setback ultimately proved costly and Brown admits he still feels hurt by his players’ actions.

“We achieved some pretty good things overall with the national team over three years but the biggest disappointment was that it ended under a cloud because of the corruption scandal,” he reflected.

“We genuinely had no idea that was going on, or certainly not to the extent that was ultimately uncovered.

“It was really challenging to lose three players ahead of the tournament and then another during the tournament on the day of a game. That would test anybody.

“It was wounding to me as a coach. At the moment it’s still only charges so you can only speculate rather than make any accusations. But we lost a large number of our best players and that was really damaging so close to a big tournament.”

Stirling-born Brown was part of the Scotland squad that won the 2005 ICC Trophy, played in the 2007 World Cup and also represented England in nine one-day internationals.

He continues to follow Scotland’s progress as they move – at what seems a glacial pace – towards full membership of the ICC, but wonders whether the growing demands of Associate cricket might ultimately prove counter-productive.

“I think Scotland have a lot of good players and a really well-drilled team,” he said. “But the frustrating thing is that not as many of them will get the chance to test themselves in a professional English environment as happened more often in my day.

“Counties won’t sign Scottish players because, in normal circumstances, there are so many Associate fixtures that will take them away for long spells.

“Those players will hopefully get opportunities instead to play franchise cricket around the world. Ultimately you have to play against players who are better than you. You have to go and learn how to overcome adversity. And by doing that both they and Scotland should hopefully improve.”