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‘It’ll be an innovative approach’: Mogul backs global cricket breakaway



INDIAN billionaire Sohan Roy, who owns a Zimbabwean team, has spoken in support for a splinter competition in international cricket following the reduction of teams in the World Cup as well as limited game-time for the lesser teams in the game.


Alongside Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt, Roy is co-owner of the Harare Hurricanes, who have been playing in the inaugural Zim Afro T10 tournament in the Zimbabwean capital.

Former Zimbabwe fast bowler Brighton Watambwa, who also went on to captain minnows Belgium, spoke to us a fortnight ago calling for an alternative structure in cricket similar to the Saudi-financed LIV Golf, a lucrative event that rivals the PGA Tour.

Watambwa was reacting to fallen giants West Indies’ failure to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in the tournament’s history, and his native Zimbabwe not making it again for a second time in a row.

56-year-old tycoon Roy, who has accumulated vast wealth in the maritime industry, has backed the idea of a separate structure to accommodate a broader base of the cricket world.

“A breakaway international tournament involving national teams will be an innovative approach to promote cricket,” Roy told The NewsHawks this week in Harare.

“This creates an additional revenue stream and ensures greater inclusivity in the sport, providing sidelined national teams an opportunity to compete against each other. It fosters a sense of global camaraderie among cricket-playing nations. Franchise cricket tournaments also allow retired cricket players to return to the game they love, and fans an opportunity to see their cricket idols back on the ground. Such franchise games are sure to add more value to youngsters and allow them to learn and grow under the guidance and mentorship of international players. It’s a perfect win-win opportunity for all.”

Roy is chairman and CEO of UAE-based Aries Group of Companies, one of the largest multinational conglomerates in the Middle East with 59 companies operating in 25 countries across the world.

Investing in Zimbabwean cricket, the Sharjah-based magnate remarked, was a no-brainer.

“Cricket is more than a game for every Indian, it’s an emotion,” Roy said.

“We have grown up watching the likes of Kapil Dev and Sachin Tendulkar, and my passion for cricket led me to co-own the Harare Hurricanes franchise in T10. Interestingly at Aries, cricket is our official game, and you will find many extraordinary skilled cricketers in our company who have played cricket in many regional matches. So, in short, the game runs in our blood. The fast-paced, quick-fire action and entertaining nature of T10 make it appealing to the modern audiences. I firmly believe in the potential of T10 cricket, and co-owning Harare Hurricanes is my first step towards contributing to its growth and success. Besides increasing our organisation’s brand visibility, we supported many enthusiastic players nationwide. Through this franchise, we gave an opportunity to the top retired international players to return to the game they had been missing so much. The experience of witnessing top-notch cricketing action up close, supporting players, and being part of a community you have always wanted to be part of, immensely gratifying.”

T10 cricket, Roy added, goes along with his line of business, so he is at home in the shortest and newest format of the game.

“I find myself strategically positioned to seize upon this expanding market,” commended Roy.

“I am from the maritime world, where everything is highly volatile. Things may go for a toss at any particular moment. One time the pieces of the oil are far down the needle, and the next time you will see them skyrocketing. So, in our business, we have to be agile, on our toes in sync with the market, and develop strategies to survive and win the competition. Interestingly, this fast-paced cricketing format completely aligns with our business ideologies, it’s a fast-paced cricketing format where you have limited time to develop new game plans and strategies and work hard towards the coveted win. One wrong step, and you may lose the opportunity to win. Just like in business, all members of the team here have to work with one vision and one goal to achieve success, and that is precisely what we are doing here as well.”

Zimbabwe becomes the first ICC full member to stage a T10 tournament, and again, this hasn’t been by accident for the organisers and wealthy franchise owners.

“Zimbabwe holds a crucial position in the world of cricket,” said Roy.

“It is enriched by profound cricketing legacies and players like Alistair Campbell, who opened doors to international cricket in the country. The Zimbabwean government, its ministry (of Sports), and the fans in the country have been welcoming. We witnessed a lot of enthusiasm and energy, which was highly infectious. This trailblazing initiative of Zimbabwe highlights its unwavering commitment to the advancement of cricket and its willingness to embrace innovation and take bold strides forward.”

The five franchises in the Zimbabwe tournament – Harare Hurricanes, Bulawayo Braves, Johannesburg Buffaloes, Durban Qalandars and Cape Town Samp Army – parted with substantial amounts of money to entice current and former internationals to play in the African country.

Roy and Dutt’s Harare Hurricanes were captained by former English skipper Eion Morgan and also included such household names as ex-India stars Robin Uthappa, Irfan Pathan and S Sreesanth as well as current West Indies batter Evin Lewis.

While affirming that the tournament gobbled up quite a budget, Roy couldn’t be drawn into revealing actual figures.

“From the match fee of our international players to travel expenses, accessories, and more, the cost of owning a team at the Zim Afro T10 tournament was high,” said Roy.

“But we are happy that we were able to expand our reach to areas that we might not have even thought of before. In short, Harare Hurricanes opened new opportunities for us and allowed us to contribute our share to the world of cricket.”