sa set for IPL storm

The Indian Premier League, with instant millionaires and lashings of Bollywood stardust, begins its second season on Saturday, thousands of kilometres from home and with controversy raging in its slipstream.

The Indian Premier League, with instant millionaires and lashings of Bollywood stardust, begins its second season on Saturday, thousands of kilometres from home and with controversy raging in its slipstream.

Fans and critics would expect nothing else from this revolutionary form of Twenty20 cricket; it's either a wake-up call or death knock.

With security unable to be guaranteed in India for a sport that is now a frontline terror target, organisers were forced to shift the five-week, eight-team, 59-match tournament to South Africa.

For Eden Gardens and Wankhede, now read Wanderers and Centurion.

Befitting a competition conceived in one of the world's more volatile sporting regions, the IPL splashes the cash and shrugs off the consequences.

England stars Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff were sold for $1,5 million (about R13,6million) each, bankrolled by the new rich of India's staggering financial transformation.

Pietersen was bought by liquor baron Vijay Mallya's Bangalore Royal Challengers while Flintoff went for the same price to Chennai Super Kings.

However, both men are required for England's home series against the West Indies, so will play in the IPL just for the first two weeks.

Among other stars to command huge auction fees were highly rated South African Jean-Paul Duminy, bought for $950000 (about R8,6million) by industrialist Mukesh Ambani for his Mumbai Indians team to play alongside Sachin Tendulkar.

Shane Warne's Rajasthan Royals, the 2008 champions who are partly owned by Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty, created a stir when they picked up 34-year-old South African Tyron Henderson for $650000 (about R5,8million).

Bangladesh seamer Mashrafe Mortaza, whose base price was $50000 , went to Bollywood star Shahrukh Khan's Kolkata Knight Riders for $600000.

There will be some intriguing line-ups. Warne can call upon old adversary Graeme Smith, the South Africa skipper.

Pietersen, who turned his back on his native South Africa to play in England, has Proteas wicketkeeper Mark Boucher alongside him at Bangalore along with Indian stalwarts Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble.

India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who was purchased by the Chennai franchise for $1,5 million dollars last year, has Flintoff, Muttiah Muralitharan and Makyaha Ntini in his squad.

Delhi Daredevils will be led by Virender Sehwag with a squad which includes the 40-year-old Glenn McGrath.

So far, South African fans seem to be sold on the concept.

The IPL claim tickets for Saturday's opening double-header in Cape Town between the Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings, and Rajasthan Royals versus Royal Challengers Bangalore, were sold out within hours of going on sale. - Sapa-AFP

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