Bangalore Royal Challengers owner Vijay Mallya has already spotted an opportunity in the Indian Premier League’s unexpected move to South Africa this season.
Bangalore has six players of South African origin in its squad, including South Africa-born former England skipper Kevin Pietersen, who signed for $1.5 million this season.
Pietersen will lead the Royal Challengers for a few matches before he returns to play in the English County championship.
Even then, Royal Challengers have options for a top South African player to lead the team as the lineup includes Jacques Kallis and Mark Boucher.
“I have several South Africans in my team, I hope the people there too come out and support,” Mallya said.
The other South African players in the Royal Challengers squad are Dale Steyn, Roelof van der Merwe and Dillon du Preez.
Each team is allowed to play up to four foreigners in the starting 11. The other players must be Indian.
IPL organizers decided to move the lucrative Twenty20 event abroad when the Indian government refused to sanction the match schedule because it clashed with general elections.
There were concerns that India’s security forces would be over stretched covering both.
More suitable weather conditions played a major part in the IPL’s decision to move to South Africa instead of England.
But Mallya, a leading Indian industrialist who named his IPL team after his whisky brand, believes it wasn’t the weather alone that mattered in the choice of venue.
“Apart from the weather, South Africa aggressively pursued the case which sealed the issue in their favor,” Mallya was quoted.
“Cricket South Africa was very aggressive and I understand the government also stepped in.”
Like Bangalore, the Mumbai Indians have a South African connection. Former Proteas skipper Shaun Pollock played for the Mumbai lineup last year and led the team when Sachin Tendulkar was injured.
Pollock has now taken up an assignment as a mentor and advisor for the Mumbai Indians and has put several players through a training camp in Durban, South Africa.
“I doubt South Africa will be able to get big crowds as we saw,” in the IPL last year, Pollock said. “But people here love Twenty20 and appreciate world class players. I’m sure they will come out in numbers.”
Ness Wadia, co-owner of Kings XI Punjab team, was pleased that the stalemate over the venue was finally over, and seemed pleased that the tournament’s start was deferred by eight days to April 18.
“It would give more time for Yuvraj Singh, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene to be free from national duty and join the squad,” Wadia said.