Cape Town: The enthusiastic public response for the Indian Premier League (IPL) parade has convinced the league’s chairman that the tournament’s move to South Africa has already been a success.
The second edition of the world’s biggest Twenty20 tournament was moved out of India last month due to security concerns and logical issues surrounding the general elections currently being held in that country.
The 59-match tournament starts in Cape Town on Saturday.
“Setting up the 2009 IPL tournament in South Africa inside three weeks has been a logistical task unparalleled in world sport,” the league’s chairman Lalit Modi told a news conference on Thursday.
“Overall, then, I’m very pleased with the way it has worked out so far.
“For us, South Africa was always suitable from a logistical and infrastructure point of view and it is our belief that we can build a brand and legacy of involvement that lasts for years to come,” Modi added.
Last year’s runners-up Chennai Super Kings will meet Mumbai Indians and Bangalore Royal Challengers take on champions Rajasthan Royals in matches highly anticipated in the cricket-crazy Indian sub-continent.
The other four teams involved in the competition will be in action in Cape Town on Sunday and tickets for the opening weekend’s double-headers have been sold out for a week.
Matches will be played in eight different venues over 37 days. The packed schedule involves moving 700 people, including over 200 television and digital media crew.
“The challenge is to fill the stadia for every match. I don’t have figures on ticket sales so far, but I think the venues will be 90% full for all matches,” a beaming Modi said.
The tournament features almost all the top international players including England’s Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff, West Indian captain Chris Gayle and India’s Sachin Tendulkar and Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Members of the Rajasthan Royals wave to crowd during a street parade in Cape Town on Thursday. The 2009 IPL tournament, moved to South Africa after security concerns in India, begins on 18 April. Reuters photo
Cassim Docrat, the chief executive at Kingsmead in Durban, where the majority of South Africa’s south Asian population live, said ticket sales were good.
“Ticket sales have gone well,” he said. “Initially only tickets for the first five games went on sale, the rest went on sale on Wednesday, and we are probably already averaging about half a stadium sold per match of the first five matches.
“The only match not selling well is a 12.30 pm match on a Thursday.”
Match timings were fixed to suit prime time television in India, which enjoys global cricket’s largest viewership and is the game’s financial hub.
The league has encountered problems behind the scenes. Most notably a dispute between the IPL and suite holders at major stadiums.
The IPL wanted suite holders to hand over their boxes which brought an angry response from locals, some even threatening to barricade their suites to prevent them from being used.
Kingsmead in Durban, Newlands in Cape Town and SuperSport Park in Centurion have negotiated a compromise with their suite holders, who have agreed to pay for match tickets while retaining control of their boxes.
But an agreement for the country’s biggest stadium, the Wanderers in Johannesburg, which is due to host the final on 24 May, lay in the balance on Wednesday.
Foreign spectators are expected to supplement the local crowds, with Modi saying 4,000 Indians were set to enjoy themselves in sunny South Africa for the next five weeks.
“It remains a challenge to engage with the broad base of all South Africans and get everyone excited by the IPL,” Modi said.
“But we’ve come so far in an incredibly short time already that I’m optimistic that we can do it.”