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We’re freezing it at 10 teams for now: Modi

In a lengthy chat, Lalit Modi walked Hindustan Times through some of the issues dogging the Indian Premier League landscape.

Mumbai: Sitting in the 33rd floor clubroom of a plush hotel, Lalit Modi surveys the city's skyline like a monarch would - or perhaps a mafia don, depending on how you look at it. In a lengthy chat, he walked HT through some of the issues dogging the Indian Premier League landscape. Excerpts:

 

The tournament returns home in a climate of fear. The talk is all about security .

 

That's the reality today. Everybody needs to be more vigilant. After 9/11 and 26/11, the world has changed. As organisers and administrators it's our job to look into every aspect of security. The challenges have become more because every (terror) group feels that this is a good way of getting attention.

 

Eight teams to begin, 10 from 2011, 90-odd matches in a season. How much bigger can it get?

 

We're going to freeze it at 10 for the time being, at least for the next eight years. We have contractual obligations with Sony, there's a limit on the number of playing days, the availability of players. Unless we go into two tiers and keep the number of games the same, I don't see how we can expand. We're maxed out for the time being.

 

What does the base price of $225 million for new teams do for the valuation of existing teams?

 

We have the most unique league model in the world. In American leagues, all valuations are in hundreds of millions, running into billions (of dollars). They address a market of a few 100 million people. In Europe, Man U is valued at 1.8 billion with 800 million pounds of debt on their books. World over, the highest cost components are depreciation on infrastructure and player wages. Flip that back to the IPL. Infrastructure costs are negligible because the BCCI provides infrastructure. we have a cap on players' salaries. Some of our players are paid very healthy sums, the best compare to even someone like Kaka on a per-day basis.

 

What exactly happened with Ravindra Jadeja?

 

This is serious, with implications for the whole league structure. In 2008 we made a standard guideline, where under-19 players went through a draft system and were allocated to x, y or z team for a year, for a flat price of Rs 40 lakh. In year two, the franchises decided this should be extended, this was not an IPL diktat, the franchises wanted it. All players were required to sign this extension. Ravindra refused to.

 

He started to negotiate with a third franchise and violated rules. We offered him a chance to follow the line, he did not. He wrote to the BCCI president. I personally asked him to sign but some franchises arm-twisted him, saying they would resolve the issue. When all the documentation came to light he was in clear violation and we had to ban him. There was no other way out.

 

You say the IPL had no role in Pakistani players not being picked. But it looked odd.

 

Put yourself in a franchisee's shoes. Ninety-eight players were vying for 11 spots. Pakistan have some fantastic players but sometimes all you have to go by in our business is precedent. Your headlines today are about players being unsure about coming here, you asked about security. Last year we gave No Objection Certificates to all Pakistani players but the Pakistan government did not give clearance.

 

All squads with Pakistani players had to scramble at the last minute and make do with whatever they got. There is a precedent. When you have only 1 or 2 spots, you can't take a chance. When there were 10 spots open, Pakistanis were picked and they will be picked in the future.

 

You're on the BCCI's fixtures committee. As someone who drives franchise-based T20 cricket isn't this a conflict of interest?

 

The bread and butter of the BCCI are still Tests and ODIs. It's really important for us to invest in this because it's at the core of our cricket culture. What Twenty20 is doing is bringing new fans into the game. We were all worried about football making giant strides and capturing the minds of young people. Twenty20 has stemmed that, at least in our country.

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