Not since Hansie Cronje was accused by Indian police of match-fixing nine years ago has an off-field sports story captivated South Africans so completely. And when the rumour that the IPL could be relocating to this country was first whispered, it was treated with the same disdain. By Monday evening, however, it seemed certain that the second would become as true as the first.
The cost of television and transport logistics, not to mention accommodation and security, are less than half what they would be for the tournament in England and the weather can be relied upon in April and May almost more than at any other time of the year.
But it is the support of the SA government which appears to have persuaded Lalit Modi and his team to relocate to the Republic. The enormity of the operation would make it impossible to organize without ministerial support and when Cricket South Africa sent a representative to the department of Home Affairs to enquire about the possibility getting around a thousand visas issued rather more speedily than the usual 10 days, the answer was ‘yes.’
“The opportunity to host the tournament has been put to us by (CSA chief executive) Gerald Majola and anybody would want to take this opportunity,” said Cassim Docrat, KwaZulu Natal Dolphins chief executive. “We're heading into winter now and our grounds are available, so there's no awkward situation around timing. It would be like anybody coming to me and saying they want to hire the ground.
Yes, of course we would like to have it, there are lots of positives and, from our point of view, no negatives.
“In terms of our preparation for the next season, it doesn't affect us at all. In fact, it's perfect timing for us, it's like an extension of the current season. And I am absolutely convinced that getting big crowds won’t be a problem either. When we hosted the Twenty20 World Cup here, it was at the same time as (rugby) Currie Cup rugby semi-finals and finals, but we still had big crowds,” Docrat said.
Cape Cobras chief executive, Andre Odendaal, was also licking his lips at the prospect of hosting matches at Newlands in Cape Town – and the money it would bring his struggling union. “A franchise hosting the tournament would get seven games before the semi-finals and final and obviously there would be a pretty solid staging fee,” Odendaal told the Hindustan Times.“But it also gives us the opportunity to develop relations with an Indian franchise and that could be important in these days.
“There are absolutely no drawbacks for us. In fact, it's a huge sign of confidence in South African administrators and infrastructure. We know how to do these international events, we've held several of them very successfully.
“April and May is also a perfect time in Cape Town, it's probably when the weather is at its calmest. It gives us an extra window to showcase our stadium and to give more cricket to our supporters.”
Everybody from the SA players association to the national Tourism Board has also thrown support at the arrival of the IPL. In fact, the only difficulty the country may face should Modi choose South Africa would be finding enough red carpet to roll out.