Connecting with every Indian household is one of the most impressive features of the Indian Premier League. While Test matches draw the purists, ODI cricket attracts mostly the conventionalists. But with the advent of IPL, the game has earned a wider appeal in India.
However, it is important that it keeps evolving. In an effort to bring a further Indian essence to the league, it has been decided that in the next season — the seventh — a colossal auction will take place in Indian currency instead of dollars.
With season six set to start in less than two weeks, IPL chairman Rajeev Shukla — entering his second year as chairman — spoke to Mail Today and revealed his plans to take the brand to new frontiers.
"A colossal IPL auction shall take place next season that too in Indian rupees which shall indeed be a fascinating scenario for the franchises and viewers alike. But right now, we are adroitly working towards exporting the revered IPL brand to new frontiers with the idea to make IPL 6 bigger than IPL 5 in every capacity,” he said.
Recently, there have been initiatives from many team owners to sell off a part of their shares. Shukla feels that there is nothing wrong in the practice.
"The owners are allowed to sell their ownership shares according to the rules but only after taking the BCCI’s accordance or consent in this regard,” he said.
There have been two major happenings since Shukla has taken over as chairman of the IPL — a new title sponsor and the disbanding of Deccan Chargers. While Shukla is really proud of Pepsi’s coming on board as title sponsor, the Deccan episode is something that has saddened him.
"The IPL is a vastly expansive product hence my role as chairman demands diverse deliberations and decision making for various scenarios. The Pepsi title sponsorship deal showcased IPL’s credentials as an immensely successful brand as the amount being paid by Pepsi is double of what was being paid to IPL by DLF earlier.
"As far as Deccan Chargers are considered, we tried our level best to resolve their issues but unfortunately an amicable solution could not be reached for the same,” he said.
"However, the new franchise auction turned out to be a big success as Sunrisers Hyderabad won the bid for Hyderabad while paying an enhanced franchise bid fee.” The other important decision during his tenure was on the participation of Pakistan players in the league after being ignored for the last four years. There were talks that maybe the stance would be softened this time round. But things didn’t work out.
"We are not at all against Pakistan. Pakistan coaches, umpires and support staffs have been working with various franchises in the IPL from the beginning. But as far as the allowing Pakistan cricketers are concerned, it’s a big decision and it has to be taken after discussing in detail with concerned franchises,” he said.
Another issue which has rocked the IPL is the controversies surrounding the post-match parties.
IPL stopped hosting the parties, but a case of assault was lodged against Luke Pomersbach of Royal Challengers Bangalore during the fifth edition. Shukla made it clear that the individuals are at fault for any such episode. "I wish to reiterate that as we have done away with official parties so if some individual player does something (misbehaviour) in his individual capacity then it should not be associated with the league as IPL has/had nothing to do with it,” he clarified.
The opening ceremony has always been an integral part of the IPL and it shall be no different this time. Commenting on the plans in place, Shukla said: "We are in negotiations with Jennifer Lopez, Usher, Pitbull etc to perform at the opening ceremony at the Yuba Bharati Kirangan in Kolkata. Whoever gets finalised we will let you know.
"The theme for the IPL opening concert is No. 6 because this is the sixth edition. The various segments of the ceremony will be on Indianness, international artists, Bollywood show, spirit of cricket signing and magic of cricket. We are also planning to organise a road show before the opening ceremony.” Critics have often said that the IPL has lost its charm over the years, but Shukla begs to differ.
"I would completely disagree with the critics as IPL Season 5 witnessed record turnouts at all the stadiums. Almost all venues (Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Kolkata etc) were sold out for the entire season. It was watched in 192 countries across the world. Hence, the IPL is only getting bigger as every season progresses,” he signed off.