IPL - cricket without boundaries - leaves indelible mark on South Africans (With Images)

May 25th, 2009 - 4:26 pm ICT by IANS  

Shilpa Shetty By Abhishek Roy
Johannesburg, May 25 (IANS) The opening was dull and even tentative, but after 37 days of high drama and intense competition, the Indian Premier League (IPL) turned out to be a blockbuster that won over South African cricket fans as well the entire nation that was initially sceptical of the high-pitched Indian extravaganza.

The fireworks, gyrating cheerleaders, and DJs belting out popular Hindi numbers, made IPL a heady cocktail of cricket and entertainment that was put together in a matter of three weeks.

To add to the excitement, the quality of cricket in the 37-day, 59-match tournament was exhilarating. The IPL could not have hoped for a more thrilling finish with last year’s bottom placed team Deccan Chargers completing a fairytale journey to win the second edition of the tournament that has virtually shifted cricket’s centre of gravity to India.

The atmosphere was electrifying Sunday as the packed New Wanderers stadium was first treated to a fitting finale by two bottom teams of inaugural season Deccan Chargers and Bangalore Royal Challengers and then there was plenty of entertainment at the glittering closing ceremony that showcased the diverse culture of India and South Africa.

Even the uninitiated could not resist becoming a part of the IPL jamboree.

The disappointment in India after the tournament was shifted to South Africa due to the general elections turned to cheers on foreign soil and left behind a rich legacy that has strengthened the ties between the two countries which share a slice of history.

South Africa turned out to be a home away from home for the IPL and the huge success has now prompted cricket tsar Lalit Modi to think of a second IPL every year overseas.

The start was drab with rain playing spoilsport and keeping the fans away in the first week, but the game soon came to life in all the eight cities with thrilling close finishes drawing the fans to fill the stadium.

The ambience and timing was perfect for an evening blast. All and sundry — students, Indian expatriates and businessmen came out in hordes to cheer the IPL.

Johannesburg-based Urvashi Naidoo is a cricket illiterate but the entertainment quotient brought her to the New Wanderers.

“I am not a cricket lover. But I came to the stadium so that I can have a glimpse of Bollywood superstars Shilpa Shetty and Preity Zinta. Had it not been for cricket, we would have never seen them so close,” 28-year-old Urvashi, an English teacher, told IANS.

For Urvashi it might be the entertainment factor but for diehard fans like Neil Kar and Samuel Mphosa, cricket was the winner.

“We have been to Twenty20 World cup matches. But IPL is different. It is cricket without boundaries. We can never see our local lads playing alongside Indian super stars. But IPL made it possible,” said Mphosa, who works in a MNC and came to watch his favourite cricketer AB de Villiers.

The IPL also came as a welcome break for the school students. They turned out in large numbers as the match timings allowed them to soak up the fun and frolic and return home before it was too late in the evening.

Most places in South Africa are considered unsafe after sunset, but thanks to the IPL school children could enjoy big time cricket.

The evening IPL matches were over by 7.30 p.m. local time and parents allowed their wards to watch cricket.

For teenagers like Mohammad Imran and Kevin Cuan, roaming around without any escort in the evenings was a sign of adulthood.

“Watching a night match is always exciting. But we don’t get a chance to watch day and night matches because our parents don’t allow us to stay out late since it is very unsafe. But IPL match timings were tailor-made for us to come and watch evening matches and get back home before it was too late,” said Imran, who studies in standard seven in the Waterkloof House.

(Abhishek Roy can be contacted at abhishek.roy@ians.in)

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