International Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan is now an owner of the Trinidad and Tobago Red Steel cricket team.
Khan’s, business partner Juhi Chawla, a top-draw Bollywood actress, and Chawla’s husband Jay Mehta have bought a majority stake in the franchise valued at some US$2.5 million (TT$15.9 million), as part of the Caribbean Premier League (CPL).
Khan, with a net worth of close to US$600 million, and Chawla are co-owners of the popular Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the Indian Premier League (IPL), through parent company Red Chillies Entertainment.
Khan has acted in approximately 80 Bollywood movies in over 25 years. In addition to being an award winning actress, Chawla is a film producer, a philantrophist, and the winner of the Miss India beauty contest in 1984.
Speaking on the recent acquisition, “King Khan” as he is known in India, was brimming with pride and is keen to make an impact in the Caribbean in this new venture
“This is in line with our vision to expand globally. We are thrilled to become part of the cricketing tradition of Trinidad and Tobago,” Khan told the Times of India. “The passion for franchise cricket in the Caribbean is evident with the success of CPL and we hope to bring all the best practices of KKR to the T&T franchise.”
Red Steel captain Dwayne Bravo, known for his supreme athleticism, energy and celebration dance moves on the field, says he can’t wait for Khan to arrive in Trinidad.
Bravo, similar to Khan, has also branched out from his niche and has produced soca, dancehall and Indian singles and recently shot a video alongside Nisha B for his song “Chalo! Chalo!”
He believes Khan’s presence will give a significant boost to this country’s global image.
“The country itself will love an owner of that stature to be a part of (CPL). It shows the respect he has for our culture and the Red Steel,” Bravo said.
The ex-West Indies one-day captain has been playing in the IPL since 2008 and says he has formed a relationship with the KKR boss. “I know him (Khan) fairly well and whenever we meet we have a dance off. I was on the phone last night with his management team and we were having some fun that I’m going to have more dance off against him now,” he said.
Recognised globally as one of Asia’s sex symbols, Khan’s influence has permeated outside the movie industry and in 2008 was named as one of the 50 most powerful persons in the world by Newsweek.
Khan’s power move into the CPL follows that of Hero MotoCorp, the largest two-wheeler manufacturer in the world, becoming the new title sponsor of the CPL. Based in New Delhi, India, Hero was valued in 2013 at US$5.7 billion.
Bravo believes it is no coincidence that Indians are investing in the Caribbean as the regional players have always been embraced by cricket fans in the sub-continent because of their panache.
He said, “If you look at the IPL and what the West Indian players have done, we have dominated more than any other country. We feel a different type of love from the Indian fans with our flair and style. We all have our part to play and it’s good to see Indian investors here. He’s in the right place, the right country, it’s a party atmosphere here with a mixed culture,” he declared.
News of Khan’s ownership stake in the Red Steel has not only cricket fans buzzing but also local women who are eager to meet the iconic figure on just his third visit to Trinidad.
He came to these shores for the first time in 1999 where he performed two shows - Skinner Park (San Fernando) and Queen’s Park Savannah (Port-of-Spain) - before returning again in 2007 to meet his adoring fans.
Anthony Maharaj, who was executive producer for the 2010 film, Dulha Mil Gaya which starred Khan and was shot in Trinidad, Tobago and India, yesterday described Khan’s presence in Red Steel as “wonderful for Trinidad.”
“It’s not the first time he’s been in Trinidad. The commitment he has to cricket, this is wonderful...He’s stood behind Kolkata Knight Riders in India and has a fondness for West Indian cricketers,” Maharaj explained.
The promoter described Khan as “undoubtably the most celebrated, most popular Indian actor for decades” and believes there will be a tremendous interest locally for him.
“He will bring out the people. It’s going to be packed (for the games). Many people who might not have come out to the cricket from the Indian diaspora will come out just to get a glimpse of him,” he added.
Maharaj, speaking of his interaction with Khan during the 2007 filming of Dulha Mil Gaya, spoke highly of the mega star’s humility and friendliness.
“He is very approachable, charismatic and very down-to-earth,” he revealed.
Minister of Sport Brent Sancho was also buoyed by the news, stating: “It’s always good to get that celebrity buy-in and power into sport to bring that glitz and glamour. Having him come on board not only bodes well for sport in this country but also the tourism aspect.”
The Trinidad and Tobago Government has come to an agreement with the CPL to host both semi-finals and the Grand Final of this year’s competition at the Queen’s Park Oval.
It was the same in 2013, and Minister of Tourism Gerald Hadeed noted that the direct impact on the economy of the three main matches of the annual tournament being here was US$21 million. He predicted that figure to double in 2015.
Indian High Commissioner Gauri Shankar Gupta was elated over the development telling Newsday, “It is good news that Bollywood superstar and Kolkata Knight Riders owner Shah Rukh Khan has bought Caribbean Premier League team Trinidad and Tobago, joining Mark Wahlberg and Gerard Butler.”
Wahlberg and Butler, Hollywood blockbuster stars, are respective shareholders in Barbados Tridents and Jamaica Tallawahs.
The Indian High Commissioner added, “It just goes to show how closely associated we (TT and India) are with each other. It will also strengthen our union bringing us closer in the future.”
And Mastana Bahar producer, Khayal Mohammed, feels Khan’s involvement in the CPL will certainly bring excitement to the game once more.
“The good news is he (Khan) has also taken over the TT Red Steel where a lot of young people will be involved in this game,” Mohammed told Newsday. “Now the (Queen’s Park) Oval or any other venue in the Caribbean will be packed to capacity because of Shah Rukh’s presence. I think there will be a renewed passion for the game of cricket from the Trinidadians who follow him through Bollywood movies.”