SA hosts a hugely successful IPL

2009-05-26 00:00

JOHANNESBURG — A dazzling fireworks and laser beam display at the Wanderers Stadium on Sunday night brought the curtain down on the hugely successful Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament.

When it was first announced that the IPL was being brought to South Africa because of security concerns in India, many doubted the tournament could succeed. The South African authorities had only three short weeks to organise a tournament at eight venues, with 59 matches being played over six weeks.

It was thought South Africans were unlikely to identify with cricket franchises with names like the Kings XI Punjab or the Delhi Daredevils. Others suggested the first few matches would be well attended, but that as the weather grew colder, the fans would stay away.

However, South Africans took to the IPL in a huge way. Although not every match had a capacity crowd, they were all very well attended, despite many matches being played during office hours to accommodate the Indian television networks.

The two semi-finals and the final were sold out and spectators shouted and cheered for teams they knew little of just two months ago.

What the IPL brought to South Africa was some of the world’s best cricketers — current and former greats of the game — as well as up and coming young players from India.

There were some disappointments: Glenn McGrath, recognised as one of the greatest fast bowlers of all time, spent the entire tournament warming the bench of the Delhi Daredevils, although he was one of the 2008 IPL’s most economical bowlers.

Inexplicably, South Africa’s Charl Langeveldt, one of the best death bowlers, and a player who knew the local conditions inside out, was not used until his franchise, the Kolkata Knight Riders, played its last match.

Langeveldt took three for 15 and the Knight Riders — who finished at the bottom of the log — won the match, beating the Rajasthan Royals by four wickets.

On the other hand, spectators were treated to the sight of former greats in action: Adam Gilchrist scoring 85 off 35 balls — an innings he described as the best of his Twenty20 career, or another retired great, former Indian captain Anil Kumble, taking four wickets for 16 runs, including that of Gilchrist, in the final.

Former Proteas coach, Ray Jennings, coach of the Royal Challengers Bangalore, said the format of the IPL, with young, untested players playing alongside some of the best players in the world would benefit world cricket.

“But Indian cricket will benefit even more,” he said. “The young players are learning all the time about playing under pressure, and I believe some of the youngsters who have played here, such as Manish Pandey, will become a major force in Indian cricket in time to come.”

South Africa had a number of players in the tournament, and they too will have benefited from the experience, particularly the likes of Roelof van der Merwe, who only recently became a member of the national team, or JP Duminy, who had the opportunity to bat with a great player like Sachin Tendulkar.

Many believe South Africa’s success in the Test series in Australia in the summer was partly a result of Proteas captain Graeme Smith playing with Shane Warne, and learning about tactics and strategy from a man who was one of the key players when Australia dominated world cricket.

President Jacob Zuma, who spoke at the closing extravaganza, was cheered loudly when he said the IPL had once again proved South Africa had the ability to host sporting events of this magnitude.

“This displays once again our country’s ability to host tournaments of this magnitude. The infrastructure, the transport, the accommodation, was in place, and the safety of our guests was well secured. Roll on 2010.” — Sapa.

“This displays once again our country’s ability to host tournaments of this magnitude. The infrastructure, the transport, the accommodation, was in place, and the safety of our guests was well secured. Roll on 2010.” President Jacob Zuma

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