One of the several vice-presidents at the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)—the administrative body for the sport in the country—Lalit Modi is the man rewriting the history of cricket in the country.
He is largely credited with the success of the Twenty20 experiment in the cricketing world and, now, his other brainchild, the Indian Premier League (IPL), is set to take off. If the initial hype around the event is anything to go by, it is likely to be a big success.
Modi’s bigger success, however, lies in his ability to monetize the opportunities he has created on the cricket field. In 2005, Modi was instrumental in selling the telecast rights to all official matches played on home turf to Nimbus Communications Ltd for a record $612 million (around Rs2,442 crore).
This year, Modi managed to sell the telecast rights to IPL for a whopping $1.026 billion. He also got the board around Rs3,000 crore in marketing and sponsorship deals, making the already richest cricket board in the world even richer.
Cricket will always sell in India, Modi had told Mint a few months ago—and, with these deals, he has proved himself right. Mint caught up with him to get a sneak peek into what to expect from IPL.
The Indian Cricket League (ICL) seems to be gaining momentum, and can no longer be compared with a corporate tournament. How do you hope to cope with the new buzz around ICL?
We do not consider ICL competition. You cannot compare two disparate events and draw parallels.
The DLF Indian Premier League is an attempt to further propagate the popularity of the sport in a country where the game is already considered a religion. It is also a very serious attempt to increase the fan base for cricket in India.
Furthermore, Indian cricket needed this boost at the domestic level. With IPL, we aim to nurture and build local talent. You will notice the improvement in the quality of cricket being played at the local level soon.
I am very optimistic that the DLF Indian Premier League will turn into a global phenomenon, and help take cricket to the next level. I have no doubt in my mind that if we build on this platform over the next few years, we will have a format that could well revolutionize the way cricket is played, watched and followed globally.
One of the stated objectives when IPL was announced was that franchises would build or “own” stadiums. This doesn’t seem to be happening.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Obviously, stadia simply cannot be built overnight. It is hardly six months since IPL was launched and, while this is certainly a stated aim for the league, it will take some time to happen.
Further, it was always the state associations that were going to build or upgrade new stadia. We never said the franchisee would do that. It is just not viable for the franchisee to invest in the same. They, by staging these matches at the various venues, will help the venues become international venues over the years.
The trouble is, the press expects everything to have happened yesterday. Keep in mind that the revenues earned by BCCI from the DLF Indian Premier League will go into vastly improving the current stadia and playing infrastructure which, given the 2011 World Cup that India will host, augurs well for the future.
Pune has started the process of building a new stadium, and we hope it will be ready soon.
Likewise, you will hear of more such ventures.
In Kolkata, local associations and clubs are arm-twisting local authorities for free seats during IPL matches. Will BCCI compensate the franchise owner—in this case, Shah Rukh Khan?
The DLF Indian Premier League has a very clear-cut and well-defined set of policy guidelines for seat allocation.
As per these guidelines, the state association will get 20% of the total seats available, with, obviously, the state association being handsomely compensated for renting out the stadium to the franchises.
It is now for the local associations to distribute these seats among their members and affiliated clubs.
In Kolkata, it is for the Cricket Association of Bengal to distribute the seats among the local association and clubs. The franchise owners do not have to give away any of their seats, so the question of any compensation to them does not arise at all.
Do you plan to take IPL global, or perhaps to countries with a huge Indian population?
Imagine a domestic event in India being covered globally, and our young cricketers playing with the world’s best, showcasing their skills and also learning—with the best coaches and support staff to help them improve their game. Had anyone ever imagined this for Indian cricket a decade ago? But, it is reality today.
Additionally, the adrenalin-packed Twenty20 format, which is fast paced and exciting, should also appeal to a global audience.
And, who knows, a couple of years down the line, the DLF IPL could well have its first Chinese or American player import playing for one of the eight franchises. Kind of along the lines of the global appeal, fan base and player base that leagues such as NBA and Major League Baseball enjoy today.
There is already talk in the media of franchises wanting to play matches at Lord’s and the Brit Oval. All I will say is that the sky is the limit, and hopefully our franchises will utilize these opportunities to their advantage.