Melbourne, Mar.8 : Indian Premier League (IPL) Chairman, Lalit Modi, has said that he is comfortable defending the large sums of money at play in his new cricket league.
In just three years Modi has helped turn the Board of Control for Cricket in India into one of the richest sporting organizations in the world, with annual revenue of over a billion dollars.
The officially sanctioned IPL League has been a promoter's dream. First, some of the biggest names in Bollywood chipped in to buy teams in the league, and then six cricketers fetched over a million dollars to play in the tournament at a player auction.
According to The Age, Modi's influence has been compared with Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket experiment that revolutionized the game in the late 1970s. But there is one crucial difference: Modi is not a rebel. He has the financial might and the monopoly power of India's cricket establishment behind him.
"Cricket is what drives this country. It cuts across religion, it cuts across age groups and every facet of our lives here in India. Promoting cricket in India is a good cause that he "finds enriching," Modi told the paper.
But there is also a hint of revenge in his motivation to get to the top of the Indian cricket establishment. More than a decade ago, Modi tried to launch an officially sanctioned professional cricket league, only to be thwarted by what he describes as "vested interests" in Indian cricket.
"We were burnt very badly by the powers that were," he said. "It became an ambition of mine to go out and clean it up."
It took Modi 10 years to break into the crusty world of Indian cricket administration. He finally succeeded by concealing his true identity to join the Rajasthan Cricket Association. He makes no excuse for this deception.
"It was a very close-knit club and they just wouldn't allow you to get in. I just used my first name and my middle name - not my last name - and that gave me the entry."
With the help of the Rajasthan chief minister - the equivalent of an Australian state premier - Modi eventually became president of the Rajasthan Cricket Association, a position that gave him a seat on the national board.
In 2005, Modi figured in a power struggle that resulted in Sharad Pawar, an influential politician and national cabinet minister, ousting former ICC chief Jagmohan Dalmiya in BCCI elections.
But even then, Modi's bid for membership of India's main cricket body hit a snag. The outgoing board appointed a committee to investigate drug charges against Modi when he was a student at a US university in 1985. Modi claims the allegations were dragged up to unfairly discredit him.
Cricket insiders say Modi was viewed as a brash upstart when he became one of the youngest men to be vice-president of the BCCI, but he has been in the forefront of the Indian board's commercial activities since.
Modi says the financial strength of the BCCI vindicates his long fight to get involved. The deals he negotiated for Indian sports channels before joining the BCCI taught him that the rights to televise cricket in India were being sold to middle men on the cheap.
Modi was listed among India's 30 most powerful people by India Today magazine this week. He was included because the BCCI's revenues have increased seven-fold since he joined the board in 2005.
Fifty-nine night matches will be played in April and May. Because Twenty20 games last only three hours, the tournament will be perfectly packaged for Prime Time TV in India.
At last count, IPL deals - including TV rights, team franchises and players - came to two billion dollars. In Australia, Network Ten bought the rights to show every IPL game live for the five years at a cost of 10 to 15 million dollars.
The ownership of the IPL teams is a heady mix of corporate moguls and movie stars.
Story first published: Saturday, March 8, 2008, 13:28 [IST]
Other articles published on Mar 8, 2008