New Delhi: Virat Kohli, the Indian cricket team’s Test captain, was on Thursday named co-owner of International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) franchise UAE Royals. The announcement was made in Dubai.

The Indian cricket team’s director, Ravi Shastri, was named UAE Royals’ advisor for the upcoming season, starting 2 December.

UAE Royals was set up last year as one of IPTL’s franchises by a group of investors called Ace Ventures. The group was led by “passionate tennis fans" including Sachin Gadoya, co-founder and managing director of travel website Musafir.com, and his friends Sawan Ravani, Rahul Saharia, Kaushal Majithia, Chirag Vora and Kunal Bansal.

IPTL, promoted by tennis ace Mahesh Bhupathi, will be played across five countries in Asia. The other teams are Manila Mavericks, Singapore Slammers, Micromax Indian Aces and Japan Warriors. The tournament will be played between 2 December and 20 December this year.

“I have always followed tennis with great interest and today I am glad to be part of a professional tennis league team," said Virat Kohli at the official unveiling of the UAE Royals team for the second season of IPTL 2015. “I am a huge fan of Roger Federer and with him joining the UAE Royals, my decision to be on board with the team was firm. The UAE Royals feature some of tennis’ greatest players and I am confident about the prospects of the team in the IPTL. I am also excited about the format of the IPTL, which I am sure will drive further interest in the game of tennis."

Another co-owner of the UAE Royals, Neelesh Bhatnagar said, “UAE is fast getting recognized as a global sporting hub and the country has already hosted several internationally reputed events. With the participation of UAE Royals in the IPTL, we have now succeeded in bringing a unique and exciting format of tennis that will certainly add impetus to UAE being recognised as a key sports destination," said Bhatnagar.

This will be Kohli’s second ownership of a non-cricket franchise. In September last year, he was named the fourth co-owner of the Indian Super League (ISL) franchise, FC Goa. The other owners of the team are industrialists Dattaraj Salgaocar, Shrinivas Dempo and Venugopal Dhoot.

“I’ve always been a tennis fan. It grew when I was small. I think I can play the sport," UAE-based sports newspaper Sport 360 cited Kohli as saying. He also revealed that tennis legend and current world number 2 Roger Federer’s involvement in the franchise was “the main reason for his association". Kohli added, “I couldn’t miss the opportunity to work closely with him."

Besides Federer, the UAE Royals’ roster for the upcoming season also includes Croat Marin Cilic, the ninth ranked men’s singles player in the world; former world number 1 Ana Ivanovic; former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanesevic; Canadian doubles specialist Daniel Nestor; and Tomas Berdych, currently ranked sixth in the world. France’s Kristina Mladenovic, a quarterfinalist in the ongoing US Open, is also part of the Dubai-based franchise.

Kohli, on course to joining the 100-crore club in brand endorsements—a milestone crossed by Sachin Tendulkar and Mahendra Singh Dhoni—is also quietly building a business empire.

In May, he announced the launch of sportsconvo.com, an online platform for sports lovers. He already owns fashion label Wrogn and has set up a chain of gyms and fitness centres called Chisel.

Kohli’s involvement with these leagues mirrors similar ventures by cricketers, past and present. While Sourav Ganguly is the co-owner of ISL franchise Atletico de Kolkata, Sachin Tendulkar partnered with Hyderabad-based serial entrepreneur and film producer Prasad V. Potluri to own the Kerala Blasters. In October, India’s one-day captain Dhoni became the co-owner of the Chennai-based ISL franchise, Chennayin FC. Subsequently, in December, Dhoni, along with the Sahara India Parivar, bought franchise rights to Hockey India League (HIL) champions Ranchi Rays.

Close