Alex Brown and Ajay S Shankar
March 24, 2009
South Africa has edged out England to be named host nation of the 2009 IPL. The decision was made after a meeting between the IPL commissioner, Lalit Modi, and the Cricket South Africa (CSA) chief executive, Gerald Majola, in Johannesburg on Tuesday. The IPL also announced that a final schedule for the 59 matches and the host venues for the eight franchises will be released shortly.
Cricinfo understands that the IPL's opening ceremony will be held in Cape Town, and that the defending champions Rajasthan Royals will play the first game. The tournament will commence on April 18, a week later than initially scheduled, and a day after the one-day series between South Africa and Australia ends. Sources said Johannesburg, Durban, Centurion, Port Elizabeth, East London and Cape Town would be the host venues.
However, it's understood that negotiations between the two boards were not as smooth as it was initially expected with England remaining in contention as an active alternative for hosting the IPL during most of Tuesday afternoon's meeting.
South Africa had been considered the favourite to host the IPL's second season after IPL officials voiced concerns over the effect England's springtime weather might have on the tournament. England also faced issues in the form of cost, scheduling and the likelihood of conflict between television rights holders. South Africa's chances were further boosted after the country's government got actively involved in wooing the IPL, throwing in assurances on security and speedy clearance of visas for players and officials.
"A lot of factors were considered by us while evaluating the final choice for the host venue," N Srinivasan, secretary of the Indian board, said. "However, in the final analysis I think it was the South African weather, which prevailed and tilted the balance in favour of the Rainbow Nation."
David Collier, the ECB chief executive, said he understood the hurdles that would have had to be cleared to stage the tournament in England. "We all recognised the difficulties and logistical issues involved in areas such as security when the G20 is meeting in the UK next week and the climatic challenges," he said.
In the event, the IPL's decision to move to South Africa has been greeted with relief by the league's franchises and players. Muttiah Muralitharan, who plays for Chennai Super Kings, said it was the right decision for the league because "the game must go on, else cricket would die".
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