IPL Season-3 Preview: A few heartbeats away

Season-3 of the IPL is on us.

We know it the moment we see Lalit Modi’s face and hear his lisp everywhere. The papers, TV Channels and Twitterdom are full of sound bytes from the man who seems to be perpetually in a hurry. He represents the New Age India: an angry, brash, self-confident person, eager to take on the world. The fact that he has managed to take some of Old India along with him on this mysterious journey is a credit to his passion as well as self-belief. If Jagmohan Dalmiya commenced the process of establishment-nose-thumbing, Lalit Modi, more than anyone else, has transformed the face of Indian cricket and the manner in which it is viewed — not only by the cricket world, but also by the world of business and entertainment.

No wonder Sports Illustrated India recently placed Lalit Modi at #2 on the list of “50 Most Powerful People in Indian Sport”, just behind Sachin Tendulkar.

In a short period of time, he has risen to the top of the tree and has left even hitherto powerful sports stars (Sania Mirza is at #50), franchise owners (Shah Rukh Khan is at #28) and cricket administrators in his wake.

What’s more? He has taken a few others along with him in his joy ride. Ravi Krishnan, the President of IMG India kicks in at #27 on this list, just ahead of Shah Rukh Khan! While Ravi Krishnan has been in the India sports scene since IMG’s Chennai Tennis Open days, his appearance on this Power List at #27 (one ahead of Shah Rukh Khan and about 5 ahead of Harsha Bhogle) is in no small measure due to his savvy skills in bringing IMG back to the table as the event management company in charge of the IPL.

No one seems to know — or indeed seems to care — where the IPL will end up 3-4 years from now. For now, everyone seems happy: the franchise owners, players, administrators, broadcasters, advertisers and (most importantly) the fans. The IPL is a happy marriage of cricket, TV, Bollywood, entertainment and advertising.

The IPL fits well with the New India: A in-your-face and in-a-hurry, short, sweet sexy package that is peppy, racy and based on reality drama. Everyone wants it and clamours for it. Oh! And by the way, while talent is a pre-requisite, if you can compensate lack of talent with bling and biff, then bring it on!

The IPL has its cyincs and doubters. Gideon Haigh recently said, “Twenty20 is a TV property masquerading as cricket property,” in a CricInfo conversation with Harsha Bhogle and Sanjay Manjrekar. It is true that Haigh has been a T20-IPL-Modi doubter for a long time. It is true that Haigh does not like the T20 format. He may have also developed a distaste for the IPL. He probably breaks into an allergic rash everytime he hears the name Modi. But in my view, his is not the voice of a doomsday-scenario painter, although it is easy for one to think of him in those terms. In my view, in these times of extreme hype and huge profits, his voice brings balance to the marketing cacophony that surrounds this form of the game.

The point is that T20 has been hugely popular in every market that it has been played in. The IPL has packaged it in an excellent manner as a made-for-TV and a made-for-corporate-India drama. The BCCI has unleashed, through Lalit Modi, a product that has delivered the game some excitement and more respect than it probably deserves. And everyone is happy.

But there are significant challenges with the IPL.

It seems to me to be a journey whose destination is yet unknown.

There is far too much “policy on the fly” and “process refinement through band-aids” at the moment. The 7.5-minute “strategy break” after over #10 — which itself was announced/pronounced/decreed a few days prior to the start of IPL-2 — has been replaced in IPL-3 with two 2.5-minute strategy breaks; one which the bowling team can take between overs 6 and 8 and the other, which the batting team can take between overs 11 and 16.

Is this a “policy on the fly” or is it a “let us suck it and see” approach? Take your pick. Personally, I am not really that fussed with tinkering of this sort that makes the game more interesting and engaging.

What is a bit more worrying is the bullish manner (not to mention “band-aid” and “seat of pants” manner) in which matters like security, safety and the efficacy of the tendering process are handled.

Witness the arbitrary and unexplained delays in the tendering process for IPL franchises 9 and 10 that are set to commence from IPL-Season-4. The arbitrary nature of the process postponement (and the subsequent relaxation of some of the bidding rules) left the bidders that had already submitted valid bids extremely angry and bitter. Fair enough. I would be extremely upset too if I had submitted a valid bid!

The reason for the tender postponement, according to BCCI Secretary, Niranjan Shan, that supreme exemplar and embodiment of professional and ethical communications was, “The [BCCI] president felt a few clauses were too stiff and he wanted some modifications. Since the president’s approval is necessary for going ahead with the process and naming the winning bids, the entire process was cancelled and we asked for fresh tenders, which will now be opened on March 21.”

Surely, the BCCI president knew of the bidding rules and ought to have signed-off on the bidding rules and the process before the tender documents were released and not post-facto?

In my view, “policy on the fly” and “flying by the seat of ones pants” is ok for an organisation in its inception — especially one that is in a tearing hurry to make its mark in the world. Moreover, I think that this “policy on the fly” fits in quite comfortably with India, Inc, where adaptability and nimbleness is the modern matra for success. However, I would like to think that the organisation would need to acquire stability — much more solidity — if it aspires for a global footprint and global respect. A “we are like this only” attitude just will not cut it. That will do when operating in a market that is dominated by scarcity. But global respect requires much more by way of solidity, professionalism, accountability and transparency.

And therein lies a major challenge for the IPL.

Another challenge, in my view is the boredom that is likely to emanate from the “sameness” that this format can bring with it.

Despite these blips, the fact is that the IPL is a force to reckon with.

Fast Company — a company that has its eye on innovation trends and digital media — put the IPL as the 22nd most innovative company in the world — ahead of established blue-chips and brands like Frito-Lay, Samsung, Twitter and Microsoft! The IPL was also labelled the 2nd most innovative sports company in the world! It made 4th place on the Forbes List of the world’s hottest sporting properties.

More power to the IPL and more power to Lalit Modi.

In the meanwhile though, sit back and enjoy the ride for the next 50 days or so and get used to terms like “DLF Max” (and for the uninitiated, that’s the new term for “a six”).

— Mohan

14 responses to “IPL Season-3 Preview: A few heartbeats away

  1. I am very excited to watch this IPL.. awaiting for the IPL.. and I have bought Tickets for match…..

  2. The tickets are just too expensive.We had a vendor selling them and there were just 2 takers in an office whose CEO passionately promotes cricket and has its own inter-dept and inter-country tournament.

  3. Srikanth Mangalam

    Great article, Mohan!!

    I have my own questions, however, on the “Survivability” of IPL. While it may be premature at this stage ( and I will be happy to be proven wrong later), the IPL just does not give one an “NBA”, “NFL” type feel as yet both in terms of content and permanency. It seems that, despite all the hype and investment, IPL stills hangs on a fine thread. The ad hoc decisions that you talk about do not give the comfort that this is here to stay.

    Having said that, it should be fun while it lasts….

  4. Terrific article. Candid, forthright and punchy. Good read.

    It is too early to judge the IPL and see if it will become an NBA or NFL of the future. But the potential is certainly there. Time will tell. If the IPL has a 10-year blueprint, they are cretainly guarding it closely! If they do not have a 10-year blueprint, it is sunk.

  5. Crisp analysis, Mohan. I almost fell off the chair laughing at your description of Niranjan Shah as “that supreme exemplar and embodiment of professional and ethical communications”. I am no great fan of IPL. But if it can convert my 16-year-old daughter to an avid follower of the game, as it seems to have done, I will not complain. Why, she even watches the occasional Test match with me these days. And that’s because most Tests these days produce results. Surely, some of the credit (we may each differ on how much) for that must accrue to 50- and 20-over cricket.

  6. Hi I am glad I have still 3 days before my first cricket match ever. Gives me time to study the rules and some background info. Might help to appreciate the game… Thanks Elles

  7. Yes, the long term viability of the IPL is of interest. In the words of a senior journo who should know, as of now, the only ones making money are the players. Nevertheless for us armchair strategists, all of that falls into the ‘circle of concern’, i.e none of our business. Let’s therefore sit back and enjoy the spectacle.

  8. Excellent blog. Enjoyed reading it Mohan

  9. IPL is not about Cricket.

    It is about entertainment and glamour. The camera is always on on Shilpa Shetty or Preity Zinta, or SRK . For expert comments we have technically astute Mandira Bedi! Cheer leaders, and other glamorous women assigned for interviewing players.

    That said, I might I am going to catch a few matches with my son – “baseballs, hot dogs and yankee stadium” kinda sentiment.

  10. Great article Mohan. Thoroughly enjoyed reading it.


    You have such a large chip on your shoulder, it is starting to resemble a forest! IPL certainly IS about cricket. Remember that the careers of Shane Watson, Geoff Marsh, Manish Pandey, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Yusuf Pathan, Ravi Bopara, et al were (re)launched because of the IPL. It has also prolonged the careers of greats like Jayasuriya, Shane Warne, Gilchrist, Hayden, Vaas, McGrath, et al. Yes, the cynics will say that their involvement is all about money. But watching Hayden and Gilchrist gush about IPL and seeing them play convinces me that it is about team-pride, cricket and money! At a recent ABC prelude to a live telecast of the A. R. Rahman show, Hayden who was anchoring the show said “Go Chennai Super Kings, the best team in the world” with such passion and fervour that one thought he was saying, “Go Australia, the best team in the world”!

    Yes, it has money, glitz, glamour, Bollywood. But so what? It is getting cricket a new audience. Anything wrong with that? But it is much more than glitz, glamour and Bollywood.

    Your statement that “the camera is always on Shilpa Shetty or Preity Zinta or SRK” convinces me that you either did not watch IPL-1 or IPL-2 or that you are a snooty and arrogant person who makes off the cuff remarks without checking facts. Camera is always on them? Take a break dude. I suggest that you open your eyes. There is a world out there and it will not be yours soon if you continue the way you are.

  11. @Steve Reid,

    While diversity of views is the point of a blog, but instead of differing on the substance of issues, you have decided to make it personal.

    If you put green $$, Hayden and Gilchrist will anything and definitely talk high of IPL, What is the surprise ?
    Brett Lee is thinking of a bollywood career, post retirement.

    There is a nice article by Sanjay Manjrekar in TOI who says all purists hate IPL and T20, where all nuances of the game are lost.

    Pure cross-bat hitting from the first ball.

    I am yet to see the e cricket career revived by IPL, make a true impact on the game. (Not the Ryan Harris, … oh please not Yusuf Pathan …. .)

    True team spirit is the India Hockey team, playing for peanuts and still shouting Chak De India.

    Since you are not from India, you may not understand, the hockey scene.

  12. As an Aussie, I do know a thing or two about hockey. I know that Aus plays Germany in the finals and India is playing off with Argentina for 7-8 spots. You tend to make too assumptions and continue to make an ass of yourself in a public forum. Your life, not mine.

    It is mainly because of ODI and T20 that Test cricket, that you purists so enjoy, has become interesting. Gone are the days of dull draws that you purists used to drool over. We now have result-oriented Tests.

    You start off your comments by saying, “IPL is not about Cricket”. So what is it about? Last time I saw, there were men with bat and ball playing cricket. You say the camera is ALWAYS on Shipla and Preity. I think you must be blind.

  13. Pingback: VIP Defense — For Brutus is an honourable man… « i3j3Cricket :: A blog for fans of Indian cricket…

  14. i am totally against ipl , i think it is the main reason behind india`s lost in england . player getting injuries in this league .

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