Irrepressible Shashi Tharoor added a new dimension to his expansive profile when he got leading business magnets to come together as Rendezvous Sports World Ltd. that bagged a team for Kochi in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Tharoor gave Kerala a reason to cheer for when he lent his support to the franchisee to bid $333.33 million (Rs 1,533.33 crore) to get Kochi one of the two new IPL teams from the next season. Sahara Adventure Sports Group bagged Pune.
IPL chairman Lalit Modi confirmed Minister of State for External Affairs Tharoor was the brain behind Rendezvous Sports World Ltd.
"Tharoor was involved in getting people together to bid for Kochi. He is an ardent fan of cricket. His involvement was to see a team from Kochi and that was fulfilled," Modi said in Chennai.
Tharoor, on his part said, said his role is of a mentor and he encouraged the business houses to think of Kerala. He also gave a lot of insight about the popularity of cricket in the state and said the team will immensely benefit young cricketers here.
"All I did on my part was to offer encouragement, blessings and expert advise when required to the bidders. Beyond that, I had no role to play. I understand it's a business decision," Tharoor said.
"IPL is an extremely valuable activity that is here to stay and grow. It will go a long way in terms of its popularity," he said. "It will capture the spirit of the enthusiasm of the young and give young Keralites a team to identify with."
"It will give them a passion of the sport which has worldwide recognition and certainly national significance," he said.
"I do not own the team but I will certainly give my opinion when asked for it," a beaming Tharoor added.
Tharoor represents the Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha seat and he even air-dashed to the Middle East last week to finalise certain business groups to join hands for a combined bid which is led by business magnate Shailendra Gaekwad alongwith Vivek Venugopal and a few others.
However, Tharoor denied the involvement of any group from the Middle East.
"This (bidding) could have gone anywhere. Mumbai-based promoter was the key. Believe me, I am not looking into who are the others involved and how much money is involved. To the best of my knowledge, there is no Middle East group involved," he said.
A close aide of Tharoor said just like his candidature in May Lok Sabha elections, his support for an IPL team from the state too came as a surprise.
"He does his job in a silent and effective manner and he has proved it again today. He was quietly working for this and he has come out with flying colours," the aide said.
Cricket in Kerala over the years has been a low-key affair because of poor infrastructure and it got its first boost when Tinu Yohanan became the first Keralite born and brought up in the state to represent the country in Test cricket in 2001, but he soon faded out.
It was a long wait until S.Sreesanth broke the shackles and since 2006 he, too, has been in and out of the Test team, but the speedster did manage to spark a new interest in the game.
Kochi has hosted less than half a dozen one-day international matches, with Thiruvananthapuram hosting the first ever ODI way back in the mid-'80s.
Former Kerala Ranji captain and now a first class umpire Ananthapadmanabhan was delighted on hearing Kerala getting an IPL franchisee.
"This is great news for cricket, cricketers and fans of cricket in the state. The flaw right now is poor infrastructure that hampers fresh talents from coming up. With the state going to have an IPL franchisee, these things will now be sorted out," said Ananthapadmanabhan.
Secretary of Kerala Cricket Association T.C. Mathew said an IPL team from Kochi will change the face of cricket in the state.
"We are in the process of constructing a world class cricket stadium at Kochi. This is going to change the face of cricket in the state," said Mathew.
Modi has extended his help to the state, saying IPL will offer an alternate venue till the new stadium is ready to host matches.