'We're not looking to add any more teams in the IPL'
The 2011 IPL suffered in comparison to the first three seasons, with TV ratings plunging significantly despite some spectacular performances from Chris Gayle and Virender Sehwag. ESPNcricinfo spoke to the league's chief executive, Sundar Raman, during the tournament about the future of the IPL.
This is the first season without Lalit Modi. Were there any differences in how things have been handled? It did feel a little toned down…
I don't know what your definition of "toned down" is but clearly the view of the management is very different and the view of the board is very different, and as a management team we go out and deliver what we believe is good for the tournament and something that helps us build the tournament within the governance that has been laid down by the board.
I think a lot of things were decentralised. There was a view taken that specific areas need to be handled by the franchisees, and those are things that were tried and experimented last season. I don't think it was anyone's intention to take control of all of that. It was done in a manner that [said], "Okay, here is how you could do it, now you go out and do it." That's the kind of difference I am talking about.
I am presuming these are things like ticketing...
Ticketing, entertainment. Pre-match, post-match. Their own licensing arrangements, etc.
Most leagues around the world are run by teams. The sporting body sits on top as an umbrella organisation and makes rules for the sport, while the teams run the league. The English Premier League is run by the 20 EPL teams. But in the IPL, it seems the franchises are kept at arm's length. Is that something that is going to change?
That is untrue because, firstly, when EPL was formed, the governing body was formed by the teams. Here the teams were formed by the governing body. And clearly, as I said, we are a nascent league and the focus of the governing body is to govern the sport, regulations and fair practices and stuff like that. I think that's exactly what it is. At a nascent stage, we will do whatever is in the interest of the sport and the interest of the franchise. We are working together with the franchises very closely. Franchises are working closely amongst themselves, and I think it is a league growing from within.
There have been some comments made by franchises at certain points. Vijay Mallya has made some comments that they would like more say, they would like to have someone on the board. Do you see that happening?
Sure, I think that has always been the case. There have been consultations that have happened in the past. There will be consultations that will happen in the future, but the decisions need to be taken in the interest of the sport.
Is there a time table for that?
I don't think there is a time table. As I said, it is an evolutionary process. We will continue to evolve as a league.
The IPL has generally had some innovation every year. What is the next step in the evolution?
Some of it is part of the strategic plan. Some is opportunistic because of technological development or innovation in various stages. Who knows what's in store for us in the next 10 years or next 15 years? For us, the larger goal is how we can be the most well-organised, well-run, successful sporting league in the world. And that's what we are working towards. You have to understand, it is an exclusive club of 10 [franchises] as of now.
Do you see it growing?
The view of the board currently is not to add any more teams, and I think that's possibly the sanest view. I think any more teams are not going to add to the sport. Maybe [it could be] different 15 years from now.
Is the auction going to remain the only way teams get assigned players or will we have a draft?
We need to go through the years to see. But the auction has worked. It is proven that every team has a fair opportunity for a player and that's the way we will continue.
How does the IPL measure success?
From a cricketing standpoint, from an administration standpoint, it is about, "Is it building the sport and giving an opportunity to players?" If you see our trophy, it says "where talent meets opportunity", and that's what the league stands for.
Two, is it helping the board bring in new fans, new spectators, new audiences?
Three, is there some influx of funds that can be deployed for the sport?
I think those are the three measures that one looks at. Whereas the third part is a smaller measure, the other two are significant for us.
On those three measures, how would you evaluate the IPL?
I think it is not a goalpost that here and now we have achieved that goalpost. I think directionally we are excellent, we are very much there. You see the Indian bench strength and significant contributions will be because of our ability to put the best of talent available, to give them the opportunity. That's for everyone to see.
More people are watching IPL. More consumers are seeing IPL. More women, more children. I think all that is adding to the sport.
Why do you think the IPL has been able to do that?
The format and the exciting talent. I think those are the two things. They get to see the best of talent compete against each other in a format that makes it nail-biting, and the bit about unpredictability is always there.
Going back to Modi - how do you think he should be remembered? Could this have happened without him?
I think Lalit brought in the vision, and had the bold thinking and created this entire piece. And I think there is no [other] way that you would speak - as a person who is not connected to the IPL - about the fact that he did put this together as the chairman of the governing council.
Retention means that there is a stated figure that is taken away from the salary cap, but the players could be paid anything. How does that affect the idea of the salary cap?
It allows you to do that for the four players who you could have potentially retained. If you look at it, across the eight teams, a maximum of 12 players were retained. That's an average of [less than] two per team. There were only two teams that retained all four players.
So you don't think it has that much of an impact?
It has not, from the results that you see. It was intended [to solve the problem of maintaining] continuity while bringing in fresh blood and that's what it is. Punjab was a brand new team and they were almost there.
Two of those teams, Mumbai and Chennai, are still in the last three.
That's fine. Two of those teams are in the last three but then they were in the last three last years also.
Yes, but this year they had the advantage of having largely the same team.
One team [Kolkata] which did not retain anybody was in the top four. [Also, Bangalore, who retained only Virat Kohli, made the final].
What is the league's view of transparency? Why keep the players' salaries a secret?
The franchisees know. The players know and there is a certain contract which has terms and conditions, which has been signed by all the players, so I don't think there is any secrecy in this.
Will we see a return to the home-and-away format? How do you think the format worked this year?
I think this format worked very well. Considering [we had] 74 matches, you started to feel that 94 matches would have been a little too much. If we have to have 94, clearly the window needs to be longer. We will not be able to do it in 50 days.
What is the best thing about the IPL?
The exhibition of talent. The opportunity that it provides for people. It breaks barriers in the dressing room.
What is the worst thing about the IPL?
The summer. Just the heat.
Nothing that needs to be refined?
As I said, we are a continually evolving process and I don't think it is about today, here, now. It could be on a daily basis, it could be on a weekly basis. It could be on a venue basis. It could be on a regulatory basis. It could be across the board.
We are obviously looking at what we could do with the schedules. Clearly, what we got right was the cricketing aspect in terms of more matches in less heat. I think that part of it is effectively addressed. I think we will evolve about how much more we can do in brand building. Teams will evolve. More licensing, merchandising will start. All of that will come.
Is there a concern that merchandising hasn't really taken off yet?
It hasn't set the world on fire for sure, but I guess it is taking its time. It is building slowly and steadily.
I am not going to buy a Dwayne Bravo jersey if I think next year he is not going to be with Mumbai Indians…
I don't think that's a point. I think you will still buy a David Beckham jersey when he was with Manchester United and when he decided not to be with them. I think that helps more merchandising.
Tariq Engineer is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo