Modi the magician or just an idea-thief?

Even a lamp post in the BCCI could have launched the IPL and made it a success


BV Rao | April 20, 2010

This open-mouthed admiration for Lalit Modi as the whiz who made a business out of cricket is getting to me.

Of course, the IPL (Indian Premier League) is a money spinner and is giving the EPLs of the world a run for their money. But when we credit Lalit  Modi for this brilliant marriage of cricket, movie stars and the megabucks, we thrust greatness upon a man who is just a good idea-thief.

The BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India), the parent body of IPL, had almost a contemptuous outlook to T20 cricket till about the time that Zee's Shubhash Chandra came up with the Indian Cricket League (ICL) and Dhoni's greenhorns redefined cricket with the T20 World Cup win.

Chandra's revolt was squished like a mosquito by the BCCI. Players who signed up for ICL were banned from playing in the BCCI's tournaments such as Ranji, Duleep and Test cricket; ICL was denied access to decent stadiums (all of which belong to BCCI or its state affiliates) and BCCI used its cricketing clout to lean on boards of other countries to ban their players from signing up for ICL. The BCCI's retribution went as far as to terminate the pension benefits of Kapil Dev and all other ex-cricketers who showed the temerity to go with Chandra.

In the big bad world of business, it is a legitimate exercise to employ all means to protect your market share. You earn your spurs for extirpating competition. But when we give the BCCI the credit for using every monopoly trick in its bag to protect its market share, we forget that the BCCI is not a business conglomerate but a trust that conducts cricket on behalf of the people of this country. It does not pay taxes because it is not a business. BCCI's sole objective is to promote cricket in the country, not to be the sole agency to do that.

Well, anyway, having so brutally murdered ICL, Modi launched the IPL. Not one idea of his was original. Chandra's ICL gave city-names to its eight teams, so did Modi's IPL. Chandra's ICL had a high quotient of entertainment, so does Modi's IPL. Chandra's ICL had foreign stars (retired, because BCCI's foreign friends would not allow their players to lend credence to ICL), so does Modi's IPL.

Yes, the IPL has gotten where nobody imagined cricket could go, and the ICL was certainly not allowed to go. The scale to which it has grown in such a short while is stunning, but why should I believe it's all because of this one whizkid called Lalit Modi?

Cricket is a religion in India. Movie stars are gods. And BCCI is a goddamned monopoly. In this grand world run by markets and brands, even a lamp post in the BCCI could have launched the IPL and made it a success. At least then we would have been spared of a certain blue suit strutting about the country like he runs it, just because he is such a brilliant copy-cat.




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