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The global footprint of the IPL is expanding swiftly with its franchise owners set to buy all six teams in South Africa's new T20 league, the inaugural edition of which is scheduled for January 2023.
ESPNcricinfo has learned that Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings, Lucknow Super Giants, Sunrisers Hyderabad, Rajasthan Royals and one of the owners of Delhi Capitals have successfully bid for the franchises. The league will be run by Cricket South Africa in partnership with television broadcaster SuperSport.
It is understood that CSK, through parent company Chennai Super Kings Sports Limited, made the highest bid at an informal auction to buy the Johannesburg franchise. Mumbai Indians, owned by Reliance Industries, bought the Cape Town franchise, while the Sun TV Group, which owns Sunrisers, bought the Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth) franchise.
The RP Sanjeev Goenka group, which paid a record sum of INR 7090 crore to buy the Lucknow IPL franchise late last year, picked up the Durban team, while Rajasthan Royals bought the Paarl team. Pretoria has been taken by Jindal South West Sports, which is headed by Parth Jindal, co-owner of the Delhi Capitals in IPL.
While Cricket South Africa (CSA) is expected to make a formal announcement of the new owners and the cities they will represent once the paperwork is complete, the board has announced former South Africa captain Graeme Smith as the overall head of the T20 league. One of Smith's early targets is to ensure that the deals with the franchise owners are watertight.
"I'm extremely honoured to be entrusted with leading this exciting new venture," Smith said. "I'm deeply committed to South African cricket and happy to serve the game as best I can. I'm excited by the opportunity to deliver the new league, which I believe will be an extremely competitive product, one that can bring the much-needed investment into the game and provide new opportunities for players around the world and more importantly to our SA home grown talent.
"The response from stakeholders has been very positive thus far and we've made great progress in the initial stages. We're determined to deliver a valuable, sustainable and appealing tournament for South African cricket."
Third time lucky?
This new tournament is CSA's third attempt to start a sustainable franchise-based T20 league after the Global League T20 failed to take off in 2017 and the Mzansi Super League was scrapped because its broadcast rights could not be sold for three years. The new T20 league was set up as "top priority" by the CSA, which shook the cricket world last week by deciding to forfeit a three-match ODI series in Australia and risk South Africa's direct qualification for the 2023 ODI World Cup to make space in the calendar for this tournament.
CSA said it had made the radical move for the "long-term sustainability of the game" in South Africa. Going forward, the board will not organise any international cricket in South Africa after the New Year Test to create a window for the T20 league, and this is evident in their schedule in the ICC's draft FTP for the period from 2023 to 2027.
"This new league promises to make a significant investment into both professional cricket and development in South Africa, along with a positive socio-economic and tourism injection into the country," CSA's chief executive officer Pholetsi Moseki said.
IPL franchise owners go global
With the league still in its early planning stages, it could not be confirmed whether CSA will conduct a player auction or draft to form the six teams. Another question is whether the BCCI will make an allowance for Indian players to participate in the league. So far the BCCI has barred Indian players from featuring in the T20 leagues of other countries to protect the IPL brand.
There is no such restriction on the IPL franchise owners, who have steadily made acquisitions in overseas T20 leagues. Red Chillies Entertainment, the owners of Kolkata Knight Riders, were the first to buy an overseas T20 franchise - the Trinbago Knight Riders in the Caribbean Premier League. In 2020, KPH Dream Cricket Private Limited, the consortium that owns Punjab Kings, bought the St Lucia Kings and last year the owners of Rajasthan Royals - the Royals Sports Group - bought the Barbados team in the CPL.
Red Chillies Entertainment, co-owned by Bollywood actors Shah Rukh Khan, Juhi Chawla and her husband Jay Mehta, has also bought a team in UAE's T20 League - the International League T20 (ILT20). Reliance Strategic Business Ventures Limited, a subsidiary of Reliance Industries Limited, the owners of Mumbai Indians, and the GMR Group - a co-owner of Delhi Capitals - have also bought teams in the ILT20. The UAE league is scheduled between January 6 and February 12 next year and will clash with the South African league.
The Knight Riders brand also has a presence in the USA, where it is among the founding members of Major League Cricket, a franchise-based T20 League scheduled to be launched from 2023. There is at least one more IPL franchise that is keep on entering the Major League T20, but has not yet formally closed the agreement.