Preity Zinta, the Bollywood actor and co-owner of Kings XI Punjab, has taken over the Stellenbosch franchise in South Africa's T20 Global League, bringing the number of IPL owners in the tournament to three. Cape Town Knight Riders are owned by Shah Rukh Khan, who also owns Kolkata Knight Riders, while the Jo'burg Giants were bought by the GMR group, which owns Delhi Daredevils.
Stellenbosch was the only franchise that did not have a private owner after South African investment corporation Brimstone pulled out of the deal last month. The Stellenbosch franchise had been taken over by Cricket South Africa before being acquired by Zinta. The T20 Global League has only one locally-owned team now, in Pretoria, bought by Osman Osman, who owns events company Blu Blood.
The lack of local interest in the league was cited as a concern by CSA CEO Haroon Lorgat, when he addressed Brimstone's withdrawal. "It is a fact that we have struggled to convince South Africans to become owners in the Global League," Lorgat said.
Brimstone's reasons for withdrawal hinted at general uncertainty over the profitability of ownership in the T20 Global League. "We found it quite difficult to get to actual numbers because it's the first year of the tournament and we knew we were going to have to use some modelling as to what to expect going forward," Mushtaq Brey, Brimstone's CEO said. "When we did all the numbers, we decided not to go ahead with the investment."
So far, the T20 Global League has cost CSA millions. In their latest annual report, CSA tabled a loss of 3.3 million Rand (US$ 257,294) having only generated a revenue of R 1 million (US$ 93,561) and incurred expenses of R 4.5 million (US$ 350,555).
Expenses on the T20 Global League so far included the costs of the launch, which was held on June 19 in London for which several guests were flown in business class from South Africa, and stadium upgrades around the country.
Lorgat had informed owners to expect it to take time to see returns on their investment but that did not deter foreign interest, especially from India. The Benoni and Durban franchises are owned by corporations, who also have interest in the Pakistan Super League, while the Port Elizabeth and Bloemfontein teams are owned by businessmen from the UAE and Hong Kong respectively.
With the tournament - scheduled to start on November 3 - less than two months away, all eight squads are finalised. The Stellenbosch franchise will be coached by Stephen Fleming, with Eric Simons as assistant coach, and Faf du Plessis as the marquee player. Lasith Malinga and Alex Hales are the big international names, with several home-grown players from the Paarl area such as Henry Davids and Justin Ontong in the squad. None of the players from Kings XI Punjab are in the Stellenbosch side but du Plessis had been in touch with some national team-mates who have worked with Zinta before.
"I'm very excited to see that Preity Zinta has come on board," du Plessis said. "I have heard from my team-mates that she is very good to work with, so I'm looking forward to working with her and seeing how she impacts our team space. She is also very passionate about the sport and I am sure local fans will have an awesome time at Boland Park."
The Paarl stadium, situated 63 kilometres away from Cape Town, will benefit from CSA's financial upgrades, which should improve facilities, including stands and floodlights. Like the other seven venues, it will host seven league matches in the T20 Global League, with the final scheduled for Johannesburg on December 16.