Trust Rajasthan Royals (RR) to come out trumps amidst the odds. In the first season of the IPL, they won the championship when everyone thought they were a hopeless bunch led by an ageing, retired superstar.
Now, just before the second season, amidst the recession gloom, they have managed to pull off a deal that should help them sail through the rough weather.
After shelving their plans to go public thanks to the slump, they have got Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty and her London-based boyfriend Raj Kundra to buy 11.7 per cent stake in the franchise.
The deal also reflects Bollywood’s fascination for the Twenty20 tournament. She is the fourth Bollywood star to own an IPL team after Shah Rukh Khan, Juhi Chawla (Kolkata Knight Riders) and Preity Zinta (Punjab King’s XI).
Shetty could also feature in a music video for the Royals, and is likely to play a major role in the team’s promotional activities.
For the Jaipur-based team, this merger is a major shift in image. They were one of the few teams that didn’t touch filmdom, and in fact, desisted from hype of any kind. Signing up Ila Aroon to sing their theme song ‘Halla Bol’ was the closest they came to Bollywood. This time, however, they plan to go the whole hog.
Kundra is a businessman who runs Essential General Trading LLC, an international trading company dealing in precious metals, gold and diamond jewellery.
This is not Shilpa’s first brush with sports. The lithe actor has represented Maharashtra state at volleyball but believes cricket is a religion in India. “Besides, my father is a huge cricket fan and was most thrilled when I told him of our plans.”
Shetty has not met team captain Shane Warne as yet. “But I’ve spoken to him and we’ll meet later this week in Goa. February 6 is when the auction of the next set of players will take place in Goa.”
Last season, Shilpa’s team defeated Priety Zinta’s Kings XI. Does she have anything to say to her co-actor? “Nothing really. There’s no competition between the owners. Priety has a great team as well.”