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Excitement grips SA

The great Indian circus has landed in SA and the buzz in South Africa is unmistakable —the anticipation and excitement is really high. Ali Bacher, former head of Cricket South Africa, thinks the IPL this time will be huge, Amrit Mathur writes.

india Updated: Apr 10, 2009 23:07 IST

The great Indian circus has landed in South Africa and the buzz in South Africa is unmistakable —the anticipation and excitement is really high. Ali Bacher, former head of Cricket South Africa and a shrewd observer of cricket's dynamics, thinks the IPL this time will be huge.

This feeling is not unfounded, considering the interest seen in Durban and Jo'burg. Cassim Docrat, CEO at Kingsmead, says the demand is staggering, it is almost as if Bollywood has landed. Everyone wants a piece of the action — from tour operators to PR agencies to local suppliers.

At Centurion, Elise Lombard, CEO of the Titans for the past decade and a half, is equally surprised by the strong corporate interest for the IPL. Sitting in her neat office at Centurion (the book shelf has copies of Wisden since 1900 and biographies of Ali, Cronje and Shane Warne) Elise heads an organisation that combines cricket with commerce.

Supersports Park is designed to deliver spectator comfort, meets the needs of corporates and also maintains the traditions of cricket. The string of hospitality suites have excellent facilities but access to the super exclusive Committee Room is governed by a terse notice which says — Only Tie and Jacket, no kids.

As Elise prepares for the IPL, by cancelling leave through the long Easter weekend, the eight competing franchisees are busy pitching their tents and getting ready. Which is a challenge considering carefully made cricket plans had to be redrawn suddenly because what works in India — say two spinners in the playing eleven — may have to be junked in SA.

There are, non-cricket issues as well.

From a logistics standpoint, the IPL is a stiff task: hotel bookings are difficult, as are domestic flights. Franchisees wanting to bring in merchandise and promotional materials have to contend with custom duties and other restrictions.

But, despite these stutters, the show is rolling nicely and the opening weekend in Cape Town promises to be spectacular. The event is global in stature, profile and commercial numbers but its core strength is that it provides a fantastic opportunity for Indian talent to emerge.