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Delhi Capitals owner Parth Jindal: 'If we don't make it to the playoffs I have failed as chairman'

The franchise, no-hopers until not so long ago, are now aiming for the top. Their owner talks about how things have changed

At 30, Parth Jindal is one of the youngest franchise owners in the IPL. In 2018, Indian business conglomerate Jindal South West (JSW), of which he is a senior director, bought a 50% stake in the Delhi franchise, paying Rs 550 crore (about US$85 million) to hold joint ownership with the GMR Group. The deal involves JSW and GMR swapping roles to lead the team management every two years. The 2020 IPL is the last of JSW's first cycle as lead managers. Jindal tells ESPNcricinfo why he is confident the Capitals are capable of making the playoffs for the second straight year, having finished third in the 2019 IPL.
Tell us about your IPL journey so far.
It has been incredible. I took over as chairman after the 2018 season, and that's when we rebranded Delhi Daredevils to Delhi Capitals, brought in Sourav Ganguly as mentor. Ricky Ponting continued as head coach, we brought in Mohammad Kaif [as assistant coach], got in Dhiraj Malhotra as the new CEO. Then we changed the team colours and went in with a very clear auction strategy on what we need and don't need.
Last year was just an amazing year. It was so incredible to see the Kotla packed to the rafters and all supporting Delhi. In 2018, when I was at the ground and Delhi Daredevils were playing CSK in Kotla, half of the stadium was supporting CSK - and Dhoni obviously. When [Virat] Kohli came, half the stadium or even more were supporting RCB.
It was only in 2019, once Delhi started doing well, once the people of Delhi started really feeling that the franchise has real hope and real possibilities of doing well [that they started to support the Capitals]. I remember the turning point was the Super Over against KKR, when [Kagiso] Rabada got Andre Russell clean bowled, middle stump cartwheeling, and that's when Delhi really came alive. It was just so nice to see the amount of blue. We started [the season] with a few people wearing blue. Midway through, more people started wearing blue, and by the end of the tournament, everyone was wearing blue.
Back in 2018, when you took charge, you said you were looking to refresh and reboot the franchise. How far have you achieved the targets you set yourself for the first cycle of ownership?
I'd like to give a lot of credit to the GMR Group and to Kiran [Grandhi, of GMR, co-owner] because a lot of the players that they entrusted or they took deep bets on, like Prithvi Shaw, Rishabh Pant, Shreyas Iyer, Sandeep Lamichhane - all these young players, they backed them before they became big names. They were backing them since 2015. And when we took over the Delhi Capitals' management from GMR, the core of the team was very well set. It made my job a lot easier, knowing that we had such phenomenal talent.
So it became more about balancing the squad and adding more experience, and we brought in the likes of Shikhar Dhawan and Ishant Sharma. Last year in the auction, one of our top picks was Axar Patel - he brings a lot of balance as well. From a team point of view and from a squad point of view, we have achieved our goal.
For me, the biggest thing was when R Ashwin and Ajinkya Rahane wanted to come to Delhi Capitals. They put in a request to Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals and said very clearly to their owners that they wanted to play for Delhi Capitals. That's a huge testament to our franchise.
We have a fantastic team this year. We are, on paper, a really strong squad. Ricky's gonna have to pull his hair out deciding the XI. That's all that an owner and management team can do: give the head coach the best possible squad for him to choose from. Very, very excited.
"Ricky's gonna have to pull his hair out deciding the XI. That's all that an owner and management team can do: give the head coach the best possible squad for him to choose from"
Our aim is, both on the field and off the field we want to cement ourselves as one of the top three IPL franchises, behind MI and CSK. Slowly try and break into that top two as well - and that can only happen if we win an IPL or two. Without that, tough to dislodge those two great IPL franchises, but that's our ambition.
You spoke about Ashwin and Rahane putting in a request to come to DC. How did all that come about?
Sourav Ganguly had a huge role to play in both those trades. While the IPL was going on [last year] he and Ricky had a lot of discussions on what kind of players we need to further strengthen Delhi Capitals. Dada mentioned Rahane and Ashwin to Ricky and Ricky was very keen on both those players. All of us discussed it.
Based on the slow nature of the wicket at the Kotla, based on the fact that the ball spins a lot, stays low, we felt Rahane could play a very vital role for the team. And, obviously, Ashwin with his experience and his variety will play a great role. Dada pitched the idea to both Ashwin and Rahane. Ashwin was the captain of Kings XI and Rahane was the captain of Rajasthan Royals but he had just been removed and Steve Smith had been reinstated.
Both of them [Ashwin and Rahane] felt that if they join Delhi it would strengthen our squad to such a degree that it would give our squad a great chance of winning the IPL.
"We started 2019 with a few people in the stands wearing blue. Midway through, more people started wearing blue, and by the end of the tournament, everyone was wearing blue"
You own Bengaluru FC in the Indian Super League. BFC have been very successful in the seven years of their existence. Will JSW be aiming for a similar success rate for the Delhi Capitals over the next five-year cycle?
Our experience with Bengaluru FC has really helped us in shaking things up at the Delhi franchise. At the core of our success at BFC have been two very simple facets: one has been treating players and support staff in the utmost professional way possible.
JSW and GMR would love to emulate the success of Bengaluru FC and win the IPL as often as we can, but having said that, we are very cognisant of the immense competition in the IPL, the sheer professionalism in it, and I have deep admiration for the way some of the IPL franchises are run. So it's a tall order, but we've set ourselves up as contenders.
Two years ago we were not even contenders. Now every website and every pundit is saying that Delhi Capitals is a contender, and most are saying that Delhi Capitals is a favourite for the playoffs. That's a big change, and we need to keep building on it.
The players have to do the job on the field. We have to create the best atmosphere around them to make them successful. That's all we can do. The rest is up to the players and the support staff, and we as owners have to support them to the hilt. Every player will have a bad run - it doesn't mean you just drop them. You have to back them, you have to make them feel like they are part of your family, and only then will they perform.
That's been the beauty of the success of Bengaluru FC and Mumbai Indians, CSK and KKR. The way the players feel like they are part of the Mumbai Indians or the CSK or the KKR family is a feeling that we are working very hard to create at the Delhi Capitals.
That the Capitals are being talked about as playoff contenders even before the tournament starts - does that tell you that you're achieving the target you've set yourself?
Absolutely. It is very gratifying. Last year we went in with no expectations and we came third. It was a really amazing season with a young captain. This year the expectations are very high. So the pressure is higher on me, higher on the coach, higher on the players. We have to respond to this pressure and we have to live up to our billing.
You are only as good as how high you finish in the league stage of the IPL. That is the real barometer of success, according to me at least. Because in a semi-final or a playoff game, it is about how good you are on the day. But across 14 matches, that's where consistency and depth of squad really comes across in a league format. So, yes, the pressure is higher, and the fact that people are talking about us as a playoff contender is gratifying feeling, but it will only have meaning if we actually achieve the results we've set out to do.
What is it about Shreyas Iyer that makes you believe that he is a good leader?
Shreyas exudes confidence and calm. That is a phenomenal combination to have as a leader. He does not get bogged down by pressure, he thrives on it. I've seen him be extremely open to suggestions. Last year we had a lot of senior players in the team: Shikhi bhai [Dhawan] was there, Ishant bhai [Ishant Sharma] was there, Amit bhai was there [Amit Mishra]. The way Shreyas took all of their feedback in while taking decisions was really great to see. He was also captaining international stalwarts like Rabada and Trent Boult.
Ricky and Sourav were very impressed with him as a captain. Between last year and this year, Shreyas has had a lot of international cricket under his belt. He has cemented his place in the [Indian] limited-overs team. And that has given him an another degree of confidence. Now he's knocking on the door of a Test call-up. He told me before they left for Dubai that his target for this season is to get a call-up to the Test squad. He's an ambitious person by nature. Everyone really likes him. He's very popular with the whole team, and he's willing to learn and willing to hear everyone out.
"Every player will have a bad run - it doesn't mean you just drop them. You have to back them, you have to make them feel like they are part of your family"
Do you reckon Rishabh Pant has the potential to become the biggest name in Indian cricket and the IPL in future?
That's a very tough question. It is a lot of lot of pressure, and I don't want to put any pressure on Rishabh Pant because he's already under a tremendous amount of pressure, even though he doesn't show it.
The pressure for any Indian wicketkeeper after MS Dhoni is just enormous, and we saw that last year when India was playing and Pant missed a couple of stumpings and the whole crowd started chanting "Dhoni, Dhoni, Dhoni." I felt it was really unfair for such a young boy to be criticised like that.
Dada said he is one of the most talented and gifted cricketers that India has. He is also very hard-working and he needs a little bit of luck and he can be one of the biggest names in the IPL.
He has all the potential to be one of the leading run scorers in the IPL. Last year itself he was, I think, No. 2 or No. 3 [Pant was No. 7]. The year before that he was the No. 2 run scorer. He has been performing in and out, and he's the only Indian wicketkeeper to score a Test hundred in both Australia and England. So he has incredible potential and we are extremely lucky and fortunate to have him in our team.
One name has come up a lot during this interview: Ganguly. There was a lot of talk before he became BCCI president about the conflict of interest in his role at the Capitals and the Cricket Association of Bengal at the time.
The day before he was being considered for the post of BCCI president, he [Ganguly] spoke to me and Kiran. He told us that he is in contention and he is not going to be a part of the Delhi Capitals as long as he is involved with the BCCI. I was crestfallen because his involvement was a huge factor last year for the team.
From that day onwards he has not spoken to me or anybody about the Delhi Capitals or about anything to do with the player strategy or auction strategy or match strategy. Other than just being a great friend of mine and a mentor to me, he has no involvement with the franchise. We really miss him at the franchise.
This year is going to be the last year of your first cycle of ownership, before GMR become lead decision-maker. So how much pressure are you under to win the title?
Ricky and I had a long discussion about three weeks ago about the targets for this season. We have set ourselves the goal of making it to the playoffs. I personally feel that if Delhi Capitals does not make it to the playoffs, then I as an owner and the chairman of the franchise have failed.
I'm very clear to everyone about that. I spoke to Kiran about that. I spoke to my father and to Kiran's father about that, saying that this is the minimum expectation that everyone can have with Delhi Capitals - that we must make it to the playoffs. After that, I'm a firm believer that in a knockout match, you just need one player to make the difference. It's anybody's game. I don't think setting a goal like winning the IPL is a fair goal or a fair ask on anyone, and I would never set that goal going into the season.
Yes, the management switches over from JSW to the GMR Group post this season, but that doesn't really alter our targets because we are one franchise. We are one unit: Kiran and I are like family. Our roles swap, but we've set a professional team below us to run the franchise. The goal remains to make it to the playoffs, cement ourselves as a top-three franchise in the IPL, and anything beyond that is obviously welcome and a bonus.
Did Ponting agree it's a realistic goal, making the playoffs?
Absolutely. He said, "Mate, I want to go one step further. I want to make it to the final."
Vivo suspended its sponsorship of the IPL recently and Dream 11 was roped at a discounted price. This week the Capitals announced deals with sponsors. How much of a challenge has it been from the commercial point of view?
If you look at the revenue streams for any IPL franchise, about two-thirds of the revenue comes from your digital and TV media rights. That value has remained unchanged. The balance one-third is split quite evenly for most franchises between sponsorship revenue, which is off jersey partners, and ticket sales.
"My personal belief this year is going to be the most watched IPL ever. The TRPs are going to be off the off the charts"
This year, with the IPL being held in the UAE behind closed doors, no franchise will be earning any ticket revenue. And sponsors are not going to be able to meet and greet players. Usually the brands get free tickets to the IPL games - even that's not going to be available. So sponsors have been getting about a 15 to 20% discount on last year's deal values. Overall there is about a 25% revenue drop as compared to a normal IPL year.
On the other side, if the IPL didn't happen, which was a real possibility, then there would be no revenue at all. I'm looking at it as half-full.
Six months down the line, there's going to be another IPL, next April. If things don't improve in India, there's every likelihood that the tournament could be played in the UAE again. What kinds of things can the BCCI do to ensure franchises don't take another hit?
I don't know if there's anything the BCCI can do differently. This is a pandemic. Everyone is suffering. You know, global leagues around the world are also undergoing similar losses in revenue.
If the IPL moves out of India again in April, to the UAE, we hope that in the UAE, Covid is under control and you can have fans in the stadiums. If that happens, then part of the revenue loss can be mitigated.
My personal belief this year is going to be the most watched IPL ever. And the TRPs are going to be off the charts. On the back of the increase in viewership data, I'm sure next year the BCCI and all franchises, including Delhi Capitals, can extract more from sponsors and more from partners. Because it is directly proportional - the more eyeballs at the IPL, the more revenue the BCCI and the franchise owners earn through partnerships and sponsorship deals.

Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo