Curtain up on IPL's bling dynasty
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Curtain up on IPL's bling dynasty

The IPL, with instant millionaires and lashings of Bollywood stardust, begins its second season on Saturday, thousands of kilometres from home and with controversy raging in its slipstream.

cricket Updated: Apr 15, 2009 11:08 IST

The IPL, with instant millionaires and lashings of Bollywood stardust, begins its second season on Saturday, thousands of kilometres from home and with controversy raging in its slipstream.

Fans and critics would expect nothing else from this revolutionary form of Twenty20 cricket; it's either wake-up call or death knock.

With security unable to be guaranteed in India for a sport which is now a frontline terror target, organisers were forced to shift the five-week, eight-team, 59-match tournament to South Africa.

For Eden Gardens and Wankhede, now read Wanderers and Centurion.

Befitting a competition conceived in one of the world's more volatile sporting regions, the IPL splashes the cash and shrugs off the consequences.

The tournament will not feature any Pakistan players, banned by their own government in the aftermath of November's terrorist attacks in Mumbai which sparked a deterioration in relations between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

Meanwhile, IPL chairman Lalit Modi, under fire for shifting the event to a different continent, will require his own beefed-up security after reports his life was under threat from India's underworld.

The IPL's riches have not been entirely successful in their seduction techniques.

Much to the delight of the traditionalists, the likes of Australians Nathan Bracken, Brett Lee and Andrew Symonds will miss the first three weeks because of the ODI series against Pakistan in the UAE.

Australian skipper Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey and Mitchell Johnson have opted out of the IPL entirely, preferring to concentrate on the forthcoming Ashes.

Others have no such reservations, however, seeing their talents auctioned off to the highest bidders.

England stars Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff were sold for 1.5 million dollars each, bankrolled by the new rich of India's staggering finanical transformation.

Pietersen was bought by liquor baron Vijay Mallya's Bangalore Royal Challengers while Flintoff went for the same price to Chennai Super Kings.

However, both men are required for England's home series against the West Indies, so will play IPL just for the first two weeks.

Amongst other stars to command huge auction fees were highly-rated South African Jean-Paul Duminy, bought for 950,000 dollars by industrialist Mukesh Ambani for his Mumbai Indians team to play alongside Sachin Tendulkar.

Shane Warne's Rajasthan Royals, the 2008 champions, who are partly owned by Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty, created a stir when they picked up 34-year-old South African Tyron Henderson for 650,000 dollars.

Bangladesh seamer Mashrafe Mortaza, whose base price was 50,000 dollars, went to Bollywood star Shahrukh Khan's Kolkata Knight Riders for 600,000 dollars.

There will be some intriguing line-ups. Warne can call upon old adversary Graeme Smith, the South Africa skipper.

Pietersen, who turned his back on his native South Africa to play in England, has Proteas wicket-keeper Mark Boucher alongside him at Bangalore along with Indian stalwarts Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble.

India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who was purchased by the Chennai franchise for 1.50 million dollars in 2008, has Flintoff, Muttiah Muralitharan and Makyaha Ntini.

Delhi Daredevils will be led by Virender Sehwag with a squad which includes the 40-year-old Glenn McGrath.

So far, South African fans seem to be sold on the concept.

The IPL claim tickets for Saturday's opening double-header in Cape Town between the Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings, and Rajasthan Royals versus Royal Challengers Bangalore, were sold out within hours of going on sale.

First Published: Apr 15, 2009 11:06 IST