The picture we get in our mind when we first hear the name Charu Sharma is a presenter or commentator. He has been around the sporting scene in India and internationally for ages now. Despite not playing the game competitively, Charu has become the face of the sport in India.
However, there is so much more to the man than just commentary and presenting. He has been involved in sports management and sports marketing as well and has contributed way more to the game than anyone could imagine.
What many people may not remember is that he was the man behind the Karnataka Premier League which is one of the most successful T20 leagues in India at the moment.
“An immense amount of pride to have it in Karnataka. There’s a little side story to it. The Maharashtra Premier League was going on and I was a part of it. So when I came back I told Brijesh that we must have our own league, and this was after the IPL started in 2008. So there was no reason as to why we couldn’t,” said Charu about the inception of the tournament.
The first season of the KPL in 2009 saw 8 teams take part with the Bangalore Provident side winning the tournament defeating the Belagavi Panthers in the final held in Bangalore.
“Carlton and I put the league together and we were delighted that Brijesh and President Maharaja were happy to accept the proposal of the league. We didn’t do it as a company, we told KSCA to carry it out with their name attached to it and we told them we would make it happen for them. Their support was fantastic. Brijesh was really understanding about what we wanted to do.
So, as a journey, it's been fulfilling, a little broken in the middle and now we’re in the reset mode. The great thing is that all the owners have come back. We’ve had a very good run and there are some pointers for that, One is that the players played their part, second is that our sponsors are back, and finally the team owners came back,” he said about the success of the league so far," said Charu.
The inception of the Indian Premier League back in 2008 paved the way for a lot more T20 leagues to come into place, and each one of them was welcome with open arms.
We have had the Maharashtra Premier League, Karnataka Premier League, Tamil Nadu Premier League, Rajwada Premier League, Haryana Premier League, and the Inter Zonal T20 league – Syed Mushtaq Ali as well.
Each one of these leagues saw the growth and development of youngsters and domestic cricketers who went on to make it big.
The IPL saw players like Ravichandran Ashwin and break into the Indian side. The KPL paved the way for Karnataka’s stars such as KL Rahul, Karun Nair, and a few others to get themselves noticed, and the TNPL recently has paved the way for youngsters like Basil Thampi and Washington Sundar to get heads turning.
The KPL especially has always seen a mix of youth and experience on the side which is what sets it apart from a few other leagues thus making it a learning experience for the youngsters. Playing in such leagues gives them the experience to play on the bigger stages which eventually help them grow.
“I think the cricketers playing quickly realised that this was a very broad highway to fame, some kind of name, and future. The players gave their heart out on the field and we have seen some terrific action over the years,” said Charu about how the players are benefiting from the KPL.
With each year, the KPL is getting bigger. The number of big names playing in the tournament has increased, the teams are beginning to become a constant in the league, unlike before when we saw quite a few teams pull out of the tournament.
The sponsors are increasing and a lot more cash is beginning to come into the tournament. Star Sports, which recently acquired the IPL rights are broadcasting the tournament which has helped increase the viewership.
Apart from this, former Australian cricketers Brett Lee and Dean Jones have been roped into the commentary team along with Charu, and the experienced Laxman Sivaramakrishnan.
So what makes the KPL one of the best leagues not only in India but the world?
“To a certain extent, history does have a role as we were the first in the country to start a league. Apart from that, the governance has been great. It’s been governed quite strictly, near international standards where there has been no confusion and chaos. The KPL is a tightly run, smoothly run ship and that’s the key,” said Charu.
“It’s so easy when you’re note planning an apex event for standards to stay. We have not been an apex event internationally or nationally but we are run in a very tight, international fashion. So, we are not the KPL, but we are the world league.”
These standards of professional conduct has been the standout feature. If that had not happened, it would have surely crumbled some way or the other. We have focussed a lot on television as well and that has helped a lot. Star Sports have shown a keenness to promote the event and that has made a lot of difference,” he concluded.
With the 2017 edition of the KPL currently underway in Mysore, the competition is increasing as the tournament progresses. The excitement of the packed crowds and intensity with which each team is competing is truly a delight to watch.
Familiar faces such as Stuart Binny, Abhimanyu Mithun, and R Vinay Kumar are putting on a spectacular show for their respective sides while a few fresh faces such as Mohanram Nidish are making heads turn and scouts take note of his performances.
With the level of the tournament increasing every year and with the changes which are taking place, for the good, we can safely say that the KPL is here for the long haul