IPL owners buying South Africa T20 League teams may open doors for Indian cricketers to play abroad

With six Indian franchisees expanding to South Africa’s T20 league, the BCCI may soon have to allow its players to take part in overseas leagues.

All six franchisees in the soon-to-be-launched Twenty20 league in South Africa have been acquired by owners or co-owners of the Indian Premier League (IPL).

All six franchisees in the soon-to-be-launched Twenty20 league in South Africa have been acquired by owners or co-owners of the Indian Premier League (IPL). | Photo Credit: THE HINDU

With six Indian franchisees expanding to South Africa’s T20 league, the BCCI may soon have to allow its players to take part in overseas leagues.

All six franchisees in the soon-to-be-launched Twenty20 league in South Africa have been acquired by owners or co-owners of the Indian Premier League (IPL). This development may lead to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) agreeing to limited participation of Indian cricketers in overseas franchise-based leagues.

Africa Cricket Development Ltd., the entity that operates the Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) league, announced the franchise-owners on Wednesday. Former South Africa captain Graeme Smith will be the league's Commissioner.

Reliance Industries Ltd., owners of Mumbai Indians, has been awarded the Cape Town franchise while Chennai Super Kings Cricket Ltd., Chennai Super Kings’ parent company, acquired the Johannesburg franchise.

The other owners are Lucknow Super Giants’ RPSG Sports Pvt. Ltd. (Durban), Sunrisers Hyderabad’s Sun TV Network (Gqeberha, formerly Port Elizabeth), Rajasthan Royals’ Royals Sports Group (Paarl), and Delhi Capitals’ co-owners JSW Sports (Pretoria).

Nita Ambani, RIL director, was delighted with the new acquisition. “We are excited to take the Mumbai Indians' brand of fearless and entertaining cricket to South Africa, a nation that loves cricket as much as we do in India! South Africa has a strong sporting ecosystem, and we look forward to exploring the power and potential of this collaboration," Ambani said in a statement. “As we grow MI's global cricketing footprint, we remain committed to spreading joy and cheer through sport!” she added.

Chennai Super Kings CEO Kasi Viswanathan termed it a great opportunity for spotting talent. “We have been evaluating new opportunities over the past few years. We felt this T20 league in South Africa will be highly competitive, and is a great opportunity for us to give back to the sport. It would also help us to spot new talent,” he said.

The move may be pivotal in the BCCI allowing Indian cricketers to participate in overseas leagues. So far, to maintain IPL’s quality and commercial appeal, the BCCI does not permit active cricketers to play in leagues similar to IPL.

Sportstar understands that the BCCI hierarchy has been contemplating allowing Indian cricketers, who are either past their prime or not selected by their domestic teams, to play overseas leagues every season.

Besides, due to the pressure created by franchisees, the BCCI officials have reportedly acceded to requests by other cricket boards while finalising the international calendar from 2023 to 2027.

It is understood that in return for an extended clear window of two and half months every year for the IPL, the BCCI will let select players compete overseas.

The details are likely to be worked out in the next couple of months.

It is not the first time an IPL franchise owner has invested in overseas leagues. The owners of Kolkata Knight Riders, Punjab Kings, and Rajasthan Royals each have a team in the Caribbean Premier League.

KKR owners have also invested in a franchise in the upcoming T20 league in the USA. Another franchise is likely to join the bandwagon. Meanwhile, an RIL-backed subsidiary has acquired a team in the UAE League that is likely to clash with the league in South Africa. At least one more franchise is in talks with the UAE authorities to acquire a team.

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