Mumbai: Rajeev Shukla took over the reins of the Indian Premier League (IPL) last year after Chirayu Amin decided to step down as the commissioner of the Twenty20 cricket league. Shukla’s first tournament as commissioner was not without controversy. He spoke in an interview about the tournament that concluded on 27 May with the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) as victors. Edited excerpts:
You were appointed as the commissioner of IPL at a time when the brand was recovering from past controversies.
My energies were concentrated on conducting the league in a professional manner. When I was appointed as the commissioner of IPL, the baggage of the past seasons was not on my shoulders. The challenge was to conduct this season in a peaceful manner and grow revenues for the IPL franchise owners.
I’m glad that IPL5 has witnessed some good cricket. This season Internet and overseas viewership has increased.
There was criticism over the opening ceremony being held at a college ground a day before the first match.
Game plan: Shukla says the focus on the quality of cricket played will be further enhanced in the coming seasons. Photo: Ravi Kanojia/Indian Express Archives
Criticism is done in any case. We can’t satisfy everyone and can’t be worried about it either.
It was for the first time that the inaugural ceremony was held a day prior to the start of the league. The reason it was done was simply to keep the quality of the game intact. When a cricket match follows an inaugural ceremony, a lot of time is wasted to clear the field and for the game to begin. Due to the same reason, many times fielders have found the ground unsuitable during play. Also, we wanted to avoid the cricketers’ practice session clashing with the celebrities’/performers’ rehearsals for the opening event. We did not want anything to affect the game.
When IPL first started, the brand message was very clear—cricket and entertainment.
There is no denying that entertainment is a very important part of cricket. That’s why we pay heavy entertainment tax for the league. But entertainment at the cost of the game is not acceptable.
Our main focus was on the kind of game being played this season. And we have received appreciation for the same. In the coming seasons, the focus on the quality of cricket played will be further enhanced.
Will the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) reconsider selling the theatrical rights of IPL? (In 2009, Entertainment and Sports Direct (ESD), a sports and entertainment content acquisition company had won the exhibition rights for IPL in theatres for Rs 330 crore for 10 years. However, this was cancelled owing to alleged irregularities in awarding the rights by former IPL chairman and commissioner Lalit Modi.)
Theatrical rights are a major source of revenue and (they) also widen the viewership base for IPL. However, entertainment tax is a hurdle. Until the rights owner takes up the onus of paying entertainment tax, we will not consider fresh bids.
The title and associate sponsorship rights are due for renewal. What is the progress on the sponsorship front?
The tender for title sponsorship will be out shortly, after the governing council takes a decision. We are negotiating with existing sponsors. There are a few new advertisers also but I cannot divulge any details at this point.
Will a new team be added to the existing nine IPL teams?
There is a slot vacant after the termination of the Kochi team. The governing council will take a call on whether that slot needs to be filled. As of now no decision has been taken.
What changes will be made with respect to players’ retention policy, auction and so on?
We have been receiving strong suggestions from stakeholders to bring all domestic players under the hammer. That is something we are mulling over.
Will the format undergo any change next year?
The same format will continue.
What is the progress on the proceedings against former IPL commissioner Modi?
The disciplinary committee is yet to submit its report on the matter.