Page last updated at 12:49 GMT, Wednesday, 25 March 2009

South Africa's cricket scoop

By Mohammed Allie
BBC News, Cape Town

Cricket South Africa chief executive Gerald Majola (left) and the chairman of the Indian Premier League, Lalit Modi
Cricket South Africa says it will offer the IPL 'the very best facilities'

It was not too long ago that rumours were doing the rounds that Fifa, football's world governing body, had a Plan B should South Africa not be ready to host the 2010 World Cup.

How ironic, then, that at a time when those rumours have dissipated, South Africa is now very much the Plan B for international cricket.

Just a week after the International Cricket Council (ICC) announced that the country would replace Pakistan as hosts of the Champions Trophy in September, the Indian Premier League (IPL) have now turned to South Africa to host the second season of their lucrative tournament.

Faced with the choice of cancelling the tournament due to security concerns in India or moving it to a different country, the IPL bosses opted for South Africa over England.

Factors which counted in South Africa's favour included the more favourable weather during April and May when the 59 games will be played, the lower costs of running the tournament and the more convenient time difference for the Indian television audience.

Indian 'compliment'

Another irony about South Africa's hosting of the tournament is that it will coincide with its general election on 22 April.

Oval cricket ground in the rain
The English weather was no match for sunny South Africa

The main reason for shifting the tournament from India in the first place was the Indian government's unwillingness to provide security guarantees because of its own forthcoming elections.

The South African government has apparently provided the necessary security assurances and with plans already taking shape for the Fifa Confederations Cup and the 2010 World Cup, the IPL tournament could prove to be a valuable training exercise for the security experts.

Cape Town is expected to host both the opening ceremony and the first match on 18 April with other games expected to be played in major centres such as Johannesburg, Durban, Pretoria and Port Elizabeth.

Cricket South Africa is excited about the prospect of hosting the world's leading limited-overs cricketers who play in the IPL.

"This a great compliment to both CSA and our nation to be shown this confidence in our ability to hold one of the world's top sporting events at short notice, " said its chief executive, Gerald Majola.

"We are looking forward to hosting some of the world's best cricketers and we can assure them they will be provided with the very best facilities to show their skills."

Sport tourism

Andre Odendaal, chief executive of the Western Province Cricket Association, said hosting the IPL was yet another feather in the cap for South African cricket.

South African school teacher Warren Rossiter
With all the international sporting events coming to South Africa, I'm not sure if people will have time to go to work
Warren Rossiter
South African cricket fan

"We already have Haroon Lorgat as the chief executive of the ICC, David Richardson as the general manager of the ICC, Steve Elworthy as the director of the 20-20 World Cup to be played in England later this year and we will also be hosting the Champions trophy in September." He did not foresee any problems with attracting fans to the ground: "We don't normally have much cricket in Cape Town in April and May, and the IPL will now satisfy the many cricket fans who complain of not getting enough top-class cricket in the city."

"We have only had one five-day test match and will be having a one-day international in April so we could do with a few more games at Newlands," he added.

Cricket fan Hoosain Khan said he was looking forward to the prospect of seeing the world's leading T-20 players in action in Cape Town.

"I'm very happy we will have the chance to see leading players like Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff in action," said the cricket follower.

"I don't think there will be a problem in getting crowds to the games because it doesn't take too long and the format and marketing of the game attracts families to go to the ground."

Warren Rossiter, a school teacher, said: "With all the international sporting events coming to South Africa, I'm not sure if people will have time to go to work.

"Having the IPL here is certainly a boost for sports tourism in the country and is also a vote of confidence in our ability to stage big events."

The tournament should also provide a valuable financial boost for the host country which can expect a windfall from holding games at a time when the season is normally over, while South Africa's tourism industry can brace itself for an influx of players, officials and fans from India.

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