Mumbai: The rise of the Deccan Chargers was dramatic between the first two editions of the Indian Premier League (IPL), with the team winning the championship last year.
E. Venkatram Reddy, Deccan Chargers’ director, operations, said in an interview that promotions were needed round the year and not just during the IPL season, although he was concerned about saturation levels at the same time.
“The law of diminishing returns certainly would visit IPL sooner or later as too much of cricket cannot be absorbed by the cricket enthusiasts,” he said. “It is not unreasonable to expect spectator fatigue when too many matches are crammed within a short duration schedule.” Edited excerpts:
How is this season critical, given IPL is returning to India, and there will be more teams from next season?
IPL has come to stay as the most visible domestic tournament. Two more teams from next season would not make any difference to the current IPL, both in format and revenue.
What would it mean for the existing teams to have two extra teams?
This was known from Day 1 when the franchise agreement was entered into. There is, therefore, no element of surprise in the inclusion of two teams. Since they would be assigned two different territories and they can build a fan base there, it may not have a direct impact on the existing franchise owners. But since the number of days played expands from 59 to about 90 days and IPL is considering three matches in a day, with the first match being scheduled in the mid-afternoon, there is a likelihood that the first match may not generate adequate response.
Public image: E. Venkatram Reddy says it is extremely difficult to build brands solely in the IPL period of two months.
We should also recognize that next year, we will have the T-20 World Cup, which would be followed a year later by the ODI (one-day international) World Cup. With cricket getting into the Olympics in the none-too-distant future, the emerging scenario is that too much of domestic cricket would not bring in commensurate benefits to the franchise owners.
The central revenue of BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India)-IPL, is shared 80% to the franchise owners (currently eight). The resultant 10% (share for) each (franchise) would not come down with the addition of two extra teams as new streams of revenue through the sale of the theatre rights, YouTube and TV entertainment would compensate for any drop in the present share of revenue to franchise owners.
The first season created a whole new audience. How do you plan to engage with and sustain this audience?
The thrust of our positioning IPL is essentially family-centric entertainment. With TV entertainment preceding and succeeding matches, and a whole host of new events being planned by IPL, as long as the games are fought fiercely, we should be able to not only maintain the existing audience base but also expand on that.
With players possibly coming up for auction from next season, what is your strategy to maintain consistency?
The rules for the new auction have not yet been formalized by IPL. It is possible that a few key players will be allowed to be retained by the franchise owners given the substantial investment they have made during these three years to build the brand through these players. Franchise owners have now understood the game better than when the first auction was held. It is likely that the average player contract fee would substantially come down mainly because of a large number of approved players available for auction and the franchise owners themselves trying to rationalize by optimizing local talent and emerging foreign talent. It is also to be recognized that most brand builders of today’s IPL teams would be eclipsed in a year or two because of age.
With IPL moving venues, like your matches this year, how challenging will it be to build brand loyalties?
It is extremely difficult given the current position. If the activity were to be restricted to the IPL period of two months, brands cannot be built. Only by a sustained campaign all through the year on various facets of cricket—retail merchandising, sports quizzes, local tournaments, academy activities and active promotion—can the fan base be consolidated.
Is there one player, from any generation, you would love to have in the team?
We would have loved to have Tiger (Mansoor Ali Khan) Pataudi and M.L. Jaisimha, the evergreen Hyderabadis, leading the Deccan Chargers for the IPL crown.
This the second in a series of interviews of IPL team owners and executives. Tomorrow: Preity Zinta, co-owner, Kings XI Punjab.