Corporate cricket matches, typically one-city and one-off affairs, are set to go national and be televised live.
State-owned broadcaster Doordarshan (DD) has signed a two-year contract with the organizers of a proposed multi-city annual corporate cricket league that will feature staff from corporate houses playing for a trophy and Rs5 lakh prize.
Conceived by Hyderabad-based sports management start-up Viswam Sports Network, the Premier Cricket League aims to find the best corporate cricket team in India. Organizers believe it is the first national effort of its kind.
It’s also turning out to be expensive to host: in the first year, Viswam will end up investing at least Rs40 lakh for the 17-day event and hopes to recoup the expenses from participation fees and on-field and television advertisements.
Typically, according to tournament organizers, corporate cricket tournaments cost between Rs2 lakh and Rs4 lakh.
Additionally, the league will include companies from small towns such as Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu or Ludhiana, Punjab competing against larger firms armed with former state-level players. Viswam is planning to sign on teams from 20 cities over the next few years.
Viswam was set up earlier this year by T. Viswanatha Reddy, who returned from the US to his native Hyderabad. He wants to bring professionalism to a country where games are run either by autonomous federations or government agencies and—other than cricket, golf and tennis—remain largely amateur.
The cricket league will be played in a Twenty20 format over weekends in Hyderabad and Mumbai, the two venues chosen for the inaugural season beginning January 2008. Each city will have six teams; the regional winners will compete in Mumbai in the final.
Over the years, the event will get bigger and “trickier”, says Reddy. Next season, he plans for it to straddle six cities of 36 teams, televised on two DD channels. When the entire format is in place, the premier league will have 120 corporate teams from 20 cities and towns, he says.
Under the deal reached last week, Viswam will pay DD Rs2 lakh for each day’s broadcast . It plans to rope in a partner to sell TV spots.
Viswam is also talking to companies such as Wipro Ltd and Nagarjuna Constructions Co. Ltd.