New Delhi:Crossing all hurdles and controversies, the third season of the Indian Premier League is well into its second week and successfully. And Lalit Modi, the man behind its success, with business acumen worth envying, spoke exclusively to NDTV Sports Editor Sonali Chander.
Here are the excerpts of the interview...
Sonali Chander: Ranked number 2 behind Tendulkar as the most powerful person in Indian sports...makes you happy but you are aiming for the number 1 spot in the world...overtaking Sepp Blatter and Jacques Rogge.
Lalit Modi: No, I am very happy where I am, but at the end of the day you know we have lots of people who have contributed to where we have got and I owe all of it to them. It's the BCCI who is behind it and who has supported me all along. It's always been the members who have put full faith in me to take this forward and we have achieved what we have achieved because of the BCCI and them wanting this tournament to go forward and making this a success.
SC: IPL 3, now the TV ratings show, is doing perfect. In fact it's higher than South Africa, but it still falls a bit flat.
LM: Not at all. Actually if you look the audiences have grown, the size of the TV market has grown, the ratings are higher than last year, the ratings are in fact higher than the year before too and the share of audience that we have is much larger in terms of the number of people watching it. So we are very happy and globally the numbers have multiplied.
In the UK market we are 10 times more than what we were last year, in South Africa it's gone up by multiple folds, Australia has gone up by multiple folds. Worldwide, including the North American market, it is the multiplier effect. So all in all we are extremely happy with the progress.
SC: IPL is now worth $4 billion, clearly because you sell anything that can be sold, including the IPL parties, which you seem to love as well given the photo we saw in news paper! Follow up on advertisements shown on big screen.
LM: You know these are again numbers that people are putting in the public domain and put by experts. In my view we have a long way to go and our aim is to be the number 1 sporting league in the world. We want to have the largest number of audiences in the world and again I do not know how do they do the evaluation. I think the 4 billion number is still a small number. It's all about the fan base and if we grow the fan base and we have a large fan base across the world that is what matters at the end of the day. We are just a 2-year old league, we are in the third year of our operation and we are just scratching the surface.
SC: You have sold everything possible this year including the IPL parties and you seem to be enjoying attending them too!
LM: I attend for 10-15 minutes and I carry on you know, I am there for a while but at the games that I am. It is very important for people to make a presence and go forward and we all contribute to it. It's an important aspect of making sure that the teams, the people who come to the city, the after parties are an important aspect of that and the players, especially the team management are able to let you know the tension of the day out and they can have a quite drink and they can enjoy themselves.
SC: An element of cricket getting too trivialized and maybe even sleazy with ticker saying call this number to meet IPL cheerleaders.
LM: Not really I don't think so, because you got to understand that you have many tickers running on your television channel. As far as the game is concerned, the game inside the boundary ropes is absolutely the most incredible game and is most competitive. We have seen most games going to the wire. So there is no tinkering with the game at all. At the end of the day different aspects which appeal to different audiences and whatever appeals to the audiences we have got to market.
SC: Worried about players being injured just before T20 World Cup like Gautam Gambhir, MS Dhoni, Ashish Nehra?
LM: Again you got to understand, injuries are part of cricket. Everybody has played 1 or 2 games and injuries continue to happen. It's a very competitive tournament and it will continue to be very competitive going forward, and our objective is that injuries should not happen. But they are bound to happen in a competitive tournament and that is the nature of the game.
SC: Dream for the IPL....want to take it abroad?
LM: No, we want to take exhibition matches abroad. There is not going to be a full-fledged tournament. We do not have a window for that but you know there are going to be gaps in the calendar throughout the year so there is no reason that we should not be playing exhibition matches around the world at different times of the year to grow our fan base.
SC: Ian Chappell said you're like Sehwag, brilliant but you do have your lapses. So was the IPL tender for the 2 new teams a lapse in a sense?
LM: You know again the governing council felt we should re-tender so we are re-tendering. It's part and parcel of what we do. Everybody wants to make it more competitive, there are more people who want to bid. So we are happy with the response we have got and ultimately it will be decided on Sunday morning who's going to win.
SC: So stories about BCCI President Shashank Manohar over-ruling you on the tender issue and trying to take over are not true?
LM: No I don't think that is true at all, absolutely untrue. It was a decision taken by the governing council. They all decided that there were some lapses and we should allow more people to bid and lower the criteria at the same time. It is beneficial to the BCCI, it was decided in consultation with everybody.
SC: You can't pick favourites but what is your dream final KKR vs Mumbai Indians .the only two teams that haven't even reached the semis yet?
LM: I mean that is what everybody is talking about. For for me any team that qualifies will be great and goes through you know in season 1 RR was the underdog and was the number 8th placed team and came out on top. Season 2 Deccan was the number 8th place and they came out on top. The tournament has just begun and you have got to understand we still have 5 weeks to go. Fortunes are going to change, players are going to come in, players are going to drop out. You will see fortunes of teams changing very fast.
SC: Final question where are you most likely to find Mr Modi, if he's not on TV, on twitter, on a flight or at an IPL party?
LM: I would be probably in a meeting someplace and close doors with my team working out on what is going wrong and what is going right and try to figure out. We work very hard. We are a very small team and we all work 24X7 to try and get this tournament up and running. At a very gruelling pace, the team moves everyday. All the people move everyday, we go from one city to another city because we need to make sure that our fans and the teams everybody has a great experience.