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South Africa should make a practical venue for IPL - Suneer Chowdhary column
by Suneer Chowdhary
Mar 24, 2009
It is finally official. The star-studded, multi-billion dollar tournament by the name of Indian Premier League is finally dropping the Indian bit - or at least a part of it anyways - this year and flying abroad. The decision that had been rumored to be doing the rounds all these days was taken a couple of days back and announced to the media yesterday; making it one of the most crucial ones in the recent history of not only Indian cricket, but also the Indian tourism.

Arun Jaitley may have jumped on to the boxing ring, knowing well that his concerns about the UPA government not able to provide security for a 'domestic' tournament such as IPL could earn him some brownie points before the elections, but the fact is that it is a decision that is as practical in nature as it could be. For one, not holding the tournament at all would have been a bigger body blow for those in the know. The other option of continuing to have the matches in India, especially given the overlap with elections would have not only been injudicious, but also impractical and downright hazardous despite all the assurances. Because, it is not only the security of the players that is at stake, but also that of the paying audiences, and if this lack of security means lesser or no audiences at the grounds, it wouldn't make any sense whatsoever to continue with the matches.

And this is why - and keeping anything that remotely smells politics out of this - it is a brave, but a practical decision in the end.

The options that are in the forefront currently are the countries of England and South Africa, with Australia's time-zone difference being the biggest barrier to moving the tournament there. It may be '90%' confirmed that England is going to be the venue, but I would still vouch for the latter, and the reasons are manifold. However, the biggest one of them all is the overall costs associated with holding a tournament in a country which has a very high standard of living as compared to South Africa. Already reeling under the issues with recession and 'global-cooling', any further increase in costs would dent the profits - if they manage to make any - or only add to the losses.

And believe you me, there are quite a few heads under which these costs could spiral up, almost like the fuel prices that had touched the $150/barrel mark some time back. The accommodation would be much costlier, so would the television production, broadcasting, travel, meals, and even the most trivial of things like laundry and telephone facilities. Add that to the presence of the owners for a sufficient duration of tournament in the country itself, it only means that the Ambanis, Mallyas and the Shah rukh Khans of the world will need to focus on only one activity at one time. SRK may not be able to shoot, Mallya could very well end up following his liquor business from abroad and Ms. Ambani will need to forget the RILs and the RPLs for some time. Can they do that?

South Africa, on the other hand, is not only economic, but it upholds the time-difference with India and makes the 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. IST starts and makes them a viable option. The Asian population in South Africa is quite a reasonable one, and if the ICC World T20 of 2007 was anything to go by, more than enough to sustain the interest in the tournament. Its proximity to India adds to the list of advantages it has.

For me, South Africa does look to be a more feasible option, but I would be very wary of predicting anything amidst this state of flux.
 
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