I T’S more than two months since the Indian Premier League (IPL), 2021 concluded in Dubai and we are at least four months away from the 2022 edition expected to be held in India.
Any other organisation, sports or otherwise, would have welcomed the intermission with a sigh of relief, sit back and relax; and, the serious minded, would contemplate and recoup for the new challenges ahead. But there is no question of intermission or interruption for IPL. The talks right now centre around the forthcoming mega auction following the inclusion of two more franchise teams, the contentious player retention decisions and probable team combinations and possible blockbuster bidding battles. The IPL saga is certainly one of the biggest sports-related success stories of all time; after all, it figures in the top five franchises-based sports and is also the biggest commercial property and the fastest growing sporting event in the world!
World Cup held in South Africa in 2008.The then top Indian stars of the game, including Sachin Tendulkar, were ostensibly rested following India’s ignominious early exit from the 2007 50-overs World Cup in the West Indies.
How India went on to win the inaugural edition, beating Pakistan in a tense final decided off the last ball, and gave birth to the IPL is part of folklore.The IPL has transformed the game. Till then it was known for its epic Test matches, the favourite among the purists, and enthralling one-day internationals, a passion among the younger generation.
But the IPL changed the dynamics of the game, almost overnight, and along with it the commerce and economics. Today, the IPL, and by extension the T20s, is the epicentre of the game around which other formats revolve.
Coming back to the reasons behind the success of the IPL. There are broadly three reasons, according to a cross section of eminent economists and critics of the game: TIMING, SCHEDULING AND MARKETING.
“Commerce and cricket were married at the right time…. And it was marketed brilliantly and allowed to grow on its own steam. It was one hell of a Big Fat Indian Wedding,” said a famous brand equity expert soon after the success of the inaugural IPL in 2008.
“The success of the marriage can be found in its offsprings like the T20 Big Bash in Australia and the Caribbean league in the West Indies, to name a few. There are many more illegitimate cousins roaming around various playing fields across the world.”
The timing - 2008 - too was perfect. The 50-overs format was fast losing its charm as the middle overs were getting tedious. The ICC officials made various changes, for instance, super subs, super series, severe field restrictions etc - to infuse fresh life into the format, but in vain.
The spectator interest was also dwindling, and for all practical purposes, the 50-over format had plateaued. The T20 format, so far struggling for recognition and legitimacy, seemed like the right medicine to breathe fresh life into limited overs cricket. The 2008 World Cup in South Africa provided it the right stage it was looking for to make its premier. It was an instant and exceptional hit. And the IPL, launched a few days before the T20 World Cup final in an atypical low-key affair, found itself at the right time and at the right place. India winning the T20 World Cup at about the same time was the icing on the cake. There was no stopping the IPL whose time had come. And Lalit Modi, the man behind India’s first franchise event and now out of favour and in exile in the UK, saw a marketing opportunity like never before and cashed on it. Sponsors fell head over heels in love with the concept, the cricketers found a new pitch to ply their trade on, and at the same time make millions, and the spectators were spellbound. It was a marketing masterclass to put it succinctly. It was not just a game being played out, it was a celebration of cricket. The third factor which attributed to the unprecedented success of the IPL was the scheduling – April-May.
Even Hollywood and Bollywood (Shah Rukh Khan, Juhi Chawla and Preity Zinta, for example, are also co-owners of some of the top franchises) held back their potential blockbusters for the IPL to pass by so that its box office collections would not be affected. The economics too witnessed a parallel growth and equally exponentially with top business czars in the country investing in many franchises with long-term plans. To get an idea of this financial behemoth, sample this. The eight franchises spent around Rs. 3,000 crore to buy their teams in 2008, the year the IPL craze started. Rs 300 crore a team 14 years ago with the Ambanis’ Mumbai Indians the most expensive of the original eight at Rs. 450 crore and Rajasthan Royals the least expensive at Rs. 270 crore.
In the latest auction to add two more franchises, in October 2021, , the BCCI made a whopping Rs. 12,715 crore. .. The mind-boggling figure, in fact, is a dip (due to the pandemic) from its high of Rs. 47,500 in 2019. Sanjiv Goenka’s RPSG splurged Rs. 7,090 crore (approximately $947 million, almost a billion dollars) to acquire the Lucknow franchise while the private equity group Irelia Co Pte Ltd (CVC Capital Partners) paid Rs5,625 crore for the Ahmedabad franchise. “We do believe that the valuation of this will go up in the future. And from what we invest, to what it could be over a period of 10 years would be a multiple of a few times,” Goenka is quoted to have said after his successful bid. To put this in perspective-- English Premier League club Newcastle was acquired by Saudi Arabia’s Sovereign Wealth Fund for $ 400 million, peanuts in comparison. There is indeed no looking back for the IPL and the future looks brighter than ever. To begin with, the broadcasting rights for the 2023-27 window is expected to fetch between Rs. 30,000 to Rs. 35,000 crore compared to the Rs. 16,347 crore Star India paid for the 2018-22 period. By a rough calculation, the BCCI is assured of Rs. 54.60 crore per match.
Tthe IPL accounts for 40 per cent of cricket’s global revenue. And it is expected to cross the 50 per cent mark soon with a 25 per cent of more matches to be played next year onwards with the addition of two more franchise teams. More the merrier may be the new mantra of the millennium for cricket.