IPL drops anchor in South Africa

Last Updated: Apr 14, 2009, 00:00 AM IST

Vaibhav Arora

With all its glitz & glamour, music and swaying cheerleaders, the Indian Premier League’s second edition is set to kick off in scenic South Africa. But as much as the thought of watching the batsmen hit the best in the business for mighty heaves generates a sense of excitement, there will definitely be something missing when IPL leaves its home shores and sets sail for the African nation.

Considering the phenomenal response that the inaugural edition of the Indian Premier League received in whichever Indian city it went, it is hard to overlook the fact that the cricketing extravaganza will be held minus its most important factors - the thousands of cricket fanatics and the deafening noise associated with a big match which can be witnessed only in India.

South Africa has a sizeable Indian population and the response to any big cricket event has always been appreciable and that is what the organizers of IPL 2009 are hoping for. The venues have also been chosen keeping in mind the number of Indians in and around the region. Durban, which houses almost 80% of the over one and a half million Indian- origin populace in South Africa, will host 16 of the 59 matches while Johannesburg, which also boasts of a large number of Indians, has also been given a number of matches.

Cape Town, another South African city with a large number of people of Indian origin, will host the opening ceremony, as also the first two matches on April 18.

One would still be over optimistic, however, to expect the same or even close to the turnout witnessed during the inaugural edition of the IPL. The football and rugby seasons, that will run almost parallel to IPL 2009, will also certainly have an adverse impact on the attendance.

But then IPL could not have come at a more appropriate time for the South African public, who are reeling under the economic slump with massive job cuts. Sport is known to be a proven stress buster and would definitely bring some cheer to the gloomy faces. Not only that, sectors such as hospitality, tourism and air travel will also heavily benefit from the tournament. No wonder then that the South African government made every attempt to win the hosting rights of IPL 2009 ahead of England.

The financial aspect may interest the organizers and the media, but what a common cricket fan in South Africa will be looking for is a healthy dose of the game and the entertainment it brings along.

Moving the IPL to an altogether new location and that too in just a few days’ time is a humungous task in itself. A look at the logistics involved gives an idea of the enormity of the task at hand. To accommodate the players, an estimated 400 rooms will have to be booked for close to six weeks, while no less than 10,000 air tickets are required to move the players around.

The matches will be held at eight venues, all of which will be handed over to the IPL management after the South African domestic season ends in the first week of April. Cricket South Africa is confident of putting up a good show, which will also further project the country as a safe venue to hold world class sporting events, ahead of the football World Cup in 2010.

The matches in South Africa are likely to be low scoring in view of the bouncy wickets and the very little time at the disposal of the organizers to make them more batting friendly. The second season of the IPL in South Africa may thus see less sixes being hit but then, a keen contest between the bat and the ball is always enthusing for a cricket fan.

Security will be a major concern for the organizers and the government, though not as big as it would have been had the tournament got a go ahead in India. Just as in India, the South Africans will also be going to general polls in the latter half of April, at a time when the IPL will be in its initial stages.

Though the matches have been scheduled to facilitate prime time viewing for the Indian television audience, a successful IPL season 2 in South Africa will raise needless concerns about the future of the Indian Premier League, as well as other sporting events in the country. India is gearing up for a number of big events in including the Commonwealth Games in 2010 and the cricket World Cup in 2011, wherein security will be a big concern for the organizers.

Let us hope that the Indian Premier League does not end up being the Indian Foreign League.