Indian Premier League chairman Lalit Kumar Modi is the man who saw tomorrow. Credited with putting together one of the world's most lucrative sports franchises, the idea of a world class cricket league began germinating as far back as 1994 in Modi's head. By his own admission, Modi began work on an IPL type of league when he partnered ESPN in 1994 to launch the sports channel in the country. Scion of a prominent business family, Modi wanted to see convergence of sports and commerce in the country.
So, he started ideating on a world class league transposing the learnings from the NBA, NFL, English Premier League. A key position in the commercially minded BCCI enabled him to unleash his ideas. The result was there for everyone to see in May-June last year. The IPL became a gangbuster success, setting world cricket on fire and reminding everyone that India was the undisputed epicentre of the game. Not merely because of its money power, but because of the gene pools of talent. New names, hitherto unknown were thrown up as India managed to build out tier two and tier three of talent pools. Yes, India had truly arrived on the world sporting scene for the IPL was truly a killer application which provided humungous breakthrough benefit. Making it an immaculate conception.
Sportspower.com has thus decided that this change agent should be numero uno on its power list. In an extensive conversation with SANDEEP BAMZAI, Modi talks about what season 2 has in store and clarifies on some of the popular misconceptions. So, here is LALIT MODI, SPORTZPOWER MAN OF THE YEAR uninterrupted...
You have created one of the biggest inventions in the game, any new innovations in the second edition?
The inaugural season of the DLF Indian Premier League was a huge learning for the BCCI and me. For starters, it helped prove that India can sustain a franchisee based model in Sports and quite profitably I might add. But perhaps more important was the fact that we were able to help create a model that will help grow the game at the grassroots level and significantly enhance the infrastructure across India through private participation. Additionally, drawing in the crowds through a judicious mix of world-class action on the greens and entertainment were critical elements in the success of the IPL.
That aside, we made some unique additions to the quality of cricket played through small innovations like the MCC Spirit of Cricket Charter, the Purple Cap for the Best Bowler and Orange Cap for the Best Batsmen. The IPL in itself was a gargantuan task in logistics and player movement, all of which was managed with a fair degree of success. In the second season, we would definitely like to keep exploring similar opportunities and avenues to create excitement for the fans.
One can only expect much bigger and better things from the adrenalin packed Twenty 20 format, which is fast paced and exciting and so, appeals to a global audience. As for season two, we have identified areas of improvement around spectator comfort and the in-stadia experience, which we will rigorously implement in the coming season. I am certain that with all that we have planned the second season will definitely be huge! I guess the best thing for our loyal fans will be to wait and watch until we start season two in April 2009!
There are now plans to stage the second edition in India and England and truly make the event international, what will its impact be on county cricket?
Right off the drawing board we were certain that the Indian Premier League was not just a domestic league with limited appeal for the Indian cricket fan – but a global league that would draw in viewership across a global Diaspora of fans from around the world, making the IPL one of the most watched sporting spectacles in modern day sport. But we have no plans to host IPL in England. It’s a domestic league which will be played in India.
Have the English players - Kevin Pietersen, Andrew Flintoff, Steve Harmison, Owais Shah confirmed their presence?
The IPL has garnered huge interests from players across the world and the English are no different. As we have declared earlier this month the IPL will be holding a fresh player auction on February 6th 2009 and I am certain that the quality of talent available to the franchisees on offer will be similar if not better than what was available during the historic first ever player auction held last year. It is only a matter of time before you and all your readers are made aware of all the players from England and across the world that want to be a part of the IPL.
Do you believe a lot of trading will take place, what is your sense?
If the initial indications of interest shown by the Franchisees in the Trading Window, which is currently on, is anything to go by – I am certain that fresh players auction will see some good activity. But then again we must understand that each of our franchisees have a specific strategy and will decide on their player requirements basis that strategy.
How seriously will the unfortunate happenings of 26/11 impact the second season of IPL?
The dastardly acts of terrorism that plagued Mumbai and all of India are unlikely to have any major effect on the second season of the IPL. I state this with a fair degree of certainty, given the recent response by the English Cricket Team, its Cricketers and indeed the ECB. The cricket world at large has taken cognisance of the fact that we cannot be reined in by these acts of terror and in a sense the cricket will go on. That said the fans across India will definitely turn out in support of the game and to show solidarity to our nation and its sport. Cricket can be a huge healer, especially in the Indian context, and I have no doubt that the IPL will play the protagonist of a soothing balm.
The raising of the cap to $ 2 million, how much of an impact will this make in the trading window?
I think you are mixing up the fresh player auction and the trading window. The 2008 Salary Cap has now ceased to have effect and no unused amount of the 2008 purse can be used in 2009. There will be no cap on Player Fees payable to players acquired by the franchises during the trading window. The trading window is only for players who were part of the IPL in 2008. The sum of $ 2 million that you refer to is for franchisees to spend at the fresh player auction for new players that did not feature in the IPL 2008 season. Each Franchise will have the sum of $ 2 million to spend on 2009 Player Fees for players who are acquired either through the Auction, or through signing uncapped "new" players, or through re-signing any 2008 temporary replacements
Were you convinced that the IPL would work, given the number of doubting Thomases around?
I was always convinced that we were on the threshold of a bold new cricketing era with the advent of the Indian Premier League. My conviction was based on the fact that we had done our homework well, researching all the best sporting leagues around the world and then finally adopting a hybrid which would work best in the Indian context.
But I should also add that the global response to the competition has been simply unbelievable to say the least. I had imagined the DLF Indian Premier League being huge in terms of spectator interests in India, but what we have achieved and the global interest that a domestic league in India has generated have been huge for the game of cricket. The DLF Indian Premier League has gained large viewership in Australia, South Africa, South East Asia, the MENA region (Middle East & North Africa) and the Americas.
Not to mention the TRPs that we garnered in India which were quite frankly staggering to say the least. The success of the league is further exemplified in the Set Max's revenue marketshare that rose from a pre-IPL level of 5.7% to 28.8%. Its share of prime time during the inaugural season of the IPL also went up to 29%, higher than the cumulative market share of the top 9 Hindi entertainment channels. And all this because we have had some of the best cricketing entertainment provided by the best cricketers from around the world.
Indians, as indeed cricket lovers across the world were treated to some truly world class cricket and frankly I could not have envisaged a more successful inaugural season than last year!!
What would you reckon was the size in revenues of the first edition, franchises, television, sponsorship, the whole ball of wax?
Revenues for the Indian Premier League add up to over $ 2.5 billion but that is over a period of time. These revenue streams include the TV broadcast rights and various sponsorship deals. I am happy to state the BCCI has already repatriated part of these revenues to the various State Associations and the other part has gone into refurbishment of all of our cricketing infrastructure and stadia prior to the 2011 World Cup.
This, I am certain, would help India and as a corollary the BCCI stage one of the best cricketing spectacles ever in the form of a truly unique World Cup.
Was the postponement of the Champions League a big setback?
The postponement of the Champions League Twenty20 was an unfortunate event. We had no option but to postpone it after the events of 26/11. And then when all the founder board members reviewed the situation on December 12, we all felt that it would be in the best interests of all the stakeholders to start the Champions League Twenty20 from the 2009 season. We already had a window for it in October 2009 and so dates were no problem. I don't think it was a big setback, in spite of the fact that a lot of hard work had gone in by all in terms of preparing for the event, which was set to kick off on December 3rd. But in the circumstances it was unavoidable.