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BCCI should extend IPL brand to some BCCI Properties involving ODI and test formats!

By Samir Pai

The jury is still out on the IPL V success and while the critics are having a field day, one needs to understand that the property is here to stay. Gate receipts have increased many folds and despite fluctuating television viewing, following of the sport property is definitely on the rise. Just like the India story in the larger economic sphere, cycles will be part of IPL’s future trajectory! However in the final analysis IPL & India as a brand still exhibit a positive story, provided correct policy decisions are taken.

In my personal view BCCI is like a grand public sector unit that has social objectives to achieve and despite a few discrepancies are doing a fine job. However are they monetizing their full potential? The answer in my opinion is no. Yes their business acumen complimented by India being a single dominant sport nation, has helped them price their property (international cricket) and IPL at premium rates, however as seen with the TRP’s of their IPL V which may be a temporary setback, they may feel the pinch in the future with the growth of other sporting disciplines and the prevailing macro economic situation in the country.

Time has come for BCCI to induct some private equity into some of its properties, much like what the disinvestment in PSU’s did for India in the early decade of the new millennium. Certain properties like the Ranji trophy and Deodhar trophy should be kept strictly within the purview of the state associations, much like the defense and health sector in the larger economic sphere. However there are a few properties which can be disinvested to private players like the IPL franchisees, for generating extra revenues and giving impetus to the other two formats of the game (ODI & tests). In my opinion two such identified properties, are the Challengers series (ODI) and Duleep trophy (Zonal format of the longer format of the game). Both properties do not fall under the purview of any state association and therefore lack a regional following or interest, as say the Ranji trophy or Deodhar trophy which has state teams being represented. It also allows IPL franchisees and other prospective private players to increase their scope of operations and revenues, making their sports ventures economically more viable. Another big advantage of this is for tapping in further broadcast revenues from the new emerging sports broadcast players ( Sony sixer, ESPN- Star demerger, Ten Cricket), hungry for viable sporting content to broadcast on their sports channels.

It’s time for the leadership in BCCI to show that they can create economically lucrative properties at the domestic levels in all formats of the game. The ball is in their court whether to rest of the laurels of the present sports scenario or see the vision to make it bigger and grander on opportunities that exist.


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Time opportune for BCCI to Introduce Tendulkar’s 4th cricket format.

The buzz around the media rights for the BCCI rights is again making the rounds! New players have emerged with possibly Zee group coming back into the official fray and Sony all set to launch its new sports channel. One area of concern for the BCCI must be the fact that past broadcasters have been losing money on its steeply priced property and a correction in valuations is a distinct reality it might face.

At the same time, it is logical to expect that due to competition the property price may not see a correction! However as a prospective broadcaster; would one want to bleed and pay the steep price just to be in the reckoning or would one want to explore BCCI properties beyond just the international fixtures, especially the domestic Indian cricket tourneys to monetize the property further.

If I was the prospective broadcaster I would like to sit with the BCCI officials, analyze all their domestic properties beyond the international fixtures and repackage and introduce new tournaments to generate revenues beyond international cricket to make my bid an economically viable bid.

One such tournament that can be introduced is the “TENDULKAR CUP”. In an interesting interview with Boria Majumdar of times now, just after the 2011 World cup victory Sachin, had stated that due to the dew conditions prevailing in the sub continent, matches were decided on basis of the toss giving an unfair advantage to sides batting second. He stated that he would like to introduce the 25 over two innings format in the ODI format to make matches more exciting and equitable for both sides. A proposal was also sent to the ICC, which in all fairness snubbed the proposal!

Time is opportune, with new broadcast rights and languishing state of Indian domestic cricket, to introduce Tendulkar’s proposed format in India. If fans remember the T20 format originated in England to revamp and create interest in the county circuit.  BCCI, faces a similar objective for uplifting interest in  its domestic cricket structure. A tournament named after the great Sachin Tendulkar, involving a public -private partnership model ( aka IPL franchisees) needs to be started. This tournament would act as a bonus for the new prospective broadcaster as an added revenue stream to supplement his revenues from Indian international fixtures at home!

Details to follow in subsequent posts…………. As always welcome your suggestions, feedback et al to take this discussion forward!

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Will Cricket have seprate codes like Rugby and Football

When I first landed in Australia for my masters program in sports management, I was slightly taken aback when I hardly saw  any cricket news or anybody playing cricket on the pristine public grounds or nets. The month was August  and it was spring time in the university town. My main reason of choosing Australia over the US , which would have been easier place to relocate, owing to presence of my siblings there; was the common sports that both India and Australia shared, especially cricket and hockey.

Soon I was reassured by my affable head of school that cricket was a summer sport in Australia and that is the reason I see the football codes all over the media.  As i started watching the rugby matches, my previous experience only being watching the young Jonah Lomu mesmerize the world with his strength and speed in that wonderful rugby world cup of 1995 in South Africa.  I soon realized that the rugby played by L omu was stark different from the ones being played by the Brisbane Broncos club, further quizzing  from my side led to a few Aussies mates with Victoria bitters and XXXX in their hands, telling me this is the real thing Rugby league different from Rugby union which i was exposed to in 1995 in a hotel room waiting for my MBA admission in poona univeristy.

A lot of prodding later, despite not conquering the finer technical nitty-gritty I realized that Rugby league was a derivative of  rugby Union, much like the emergence of One day international cricket from the mother format test cricket.  For me a novice at rugby the parallels between ODI & test and their comparisons were similar to the two rugby codes. I  found youngsters  and the working class always telling me about their preference of Rugby league which for the un-initiated is played with 13 players, is a faster format than Union which involves 15 players. On the other hand the elite and old timers always told me how Union was more free-flowing and a treat to watch from a purist angle.  I am sure by now most readers in India would understand why whenever i heard of the Union Vs league debate cricket and it’s two formats then came immediately to mind!

Now unlike cricket most players specalize in a particualr code. However you do have players shifting codes the last player that did so who comes to my mind is the burly Wendell Sailor who sifted from League to Union to play in the World Cup for Australia.  This is however not a common phenomenon as players pick up a particualr code suting their intrinsic skills .  In cricket we find the t20 Vs Test debate regularly and if t20 palyers are an inferior lot as compared to tests. Yes test cricket when at its best is the greatest platform for testing the skills of a player; however many a test player is not a certainty for the T20 format, which despite its slam bang  image, requires certain intrinsic skills which should be respected. I belive that  in cricket we have been fortunate to see players of the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Jacque Kallis, Shane Warne, Watson who have mastered all three formats of the game. However these are supreme exceptions and as the game moves forward ( especially the progession of the t20 format which is just about 10 years old) , more and more players will have to choose either the limited over format (ODIs & T20) or test cricket. It is not about inferior skills! It is simply a matter of identifying which format suits your skills the best. A world of caution, this is not about money or remuneration or riches of T20 that we are talking about, which is a different topic altogether. I sincearly belive that a top test player should be able to garner a remuneration package equal to that offered to the superstars of the T20 format, especially those donning IPL colors. That is something for criket adminstrators to work upon. In the final analysis on that front I beleive that connsiuers of Test cricket need to be confident of the market of test cricket and its audience and should market the format as aggresively as the t20 format!

I belive that in another two to three years players will be comfortable to choose their format and specalize in it. Yes you may see transfers where a compact batsman, a tear away fast bowler or a attacking spinner may shift from the t20 format to tests. On the other hand you may find a lot of players in their twilight unable to manage the rigours of long overseas tours and the marathon format ; relinqushing the longer format to play the slam bang T20 format.

However this is a fact that will be difficult to swallow for adminstrators as well as the players who have enoyed the benifits of participating in all the three formats. However this change is radical and how the adminstrators and players would react to it when reality strikes is a thought to ponder! 

As always would urge you the readers to provide me with feedbacks on the same.

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Goa should legalize sports betting

My recent visit to Goa has me marveled at the growth of the betting (or politely gaming) industry growth in the state. What started as a few sporadic cruise boats with casinos, has today mushroomed into land and sea casinos, in every nook and corner of Goa. Yes social activists and conservatives will object to this – but see the revenue it earns for the state, which can be reinvested into infrastructure health care and education . Betting like drinking et al is a social evil, only when done in excess, in moderation it is a old lifestyle indulgence of humans , existing since start of civilization. No law, regulation can crub the same. The aim is to educate society to indulge in it moderately.

My purpose with this write up is for Govt of Goa to recognize the huge market that presents itself for earning humongous revenues from the sports betting market in India. Not many know that betting is a state subject; i.e if maharshtra or bengal or delhi want to make sports betting legal, they can go ahead and do it! It is completely in the hands of the state and the center and its tall bureaucracy need not be activated.

What makes Goa ideal for becoming the first state to legalize sports betting –
1. Tourist destination with economic and demographic potential equivalent to a Macau and Philippines.

2. Indians, like Goa as a destination. They would love to take off to goa to indulge in some sports betting and tips, amongst the pristine sun ,sand and beer of India’s No-1 holiday destination.

3. Smaller state and proactive to consumers and tourism- the goan state has an advantage of being a tourist friendly destination . Its bureaucracy is used to working around consumer oriented industries like tourism, making them proactive to facilitate policy and decisions to activate a sports betting structure. Also with a vibrant casino and poker industry Goa is better geared to kick off legal sports betting, than any other state in the country.

Benefits for Goa

1. Huge revenue numbers – to give you an idea- the last world cup in India saw betting figures touching around Rs. 50000 crore for a single tournament. On a conservative estimate an all year round revenue for legal betting in Goa can be estimated at around Rs. 100,000 crore. Betting companies usually operate on 80 :20 ratio. Where 80 percent of their revenue is pay out to winners. The remaining 20 percent, can be split (50:50) between the operating companies and the state government ( revenue sharing basis). This gives a state like Goa with a population of around 14 lakhs- revenues to the tune of 10000 crores per annum. Add to this the investment in infrastructure , tourism growth and employment – Goa and Goans would become the true kings of good times.

I understand the above write up seems radical and socially detrimental to a few . But the benefits are enormous vis a vis the ills. This article is just throwing peripheral light on the potential of legal sports betting. Your comments and valuable feedback should see me offer you further in-depth analysis on this subject.

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Identifying right format critical for success of World Series Hockey

The success of sport in the modern context is majorly dependent on one factor; it’s friendliness as a television property.  The sporting disciplines that have survived and prospered in the modern entertainment world are the ones that have modified and tweaked themselves to the need of the contemporary television audience.  The tweaking could be in many ways such as, scoring systems (as seen in badminton, Table tennis, Volleyball), format of the game (Rugby codes, Cricket formats) et al.

Sports federations’ needs to understand in which category of sport its sporting discipline operates in! Whether it belongs to the ‘mass sport’ category or if it is a niche sport?  Niche sports are soaked in tradition and have a small but fiercely loyal fan base- e.g. Golf, Wimbledon (tennis) and Test Cricket.  In such sporting disciplines or tournaments the aim is to maintain the traditions, any aberration to it will result in antagonizing the consumers of the sport.  On other hand are mass products to be successful have to always look for sizable numbers. All their viewers (actual & potential) can be categorized into heavy users (loyal fanatic), medium users (high level of interest), Light users (sporadically follow the game) and Media users (not necessarily exclusive users & majority of them follow other sources of media entertainment, along with sport).

The numbers usually come from the light users and the media users and as defined above, they are not necessarily loyal and have to be coaxed from other sources of entertainment. There is no doubt that hockey belongs to the ‘mass sport’ category and will have to compete with other sporting disciplines and other entertainment avenues, to garner their share of spectators & viewers.


Hockey In its Present avatar – it is very important to understand that a majority section of the consumers (growing up in the 1990s and 2000s), have never played the game and have followed it sporadically. This differentiates the prospective WSH consumer from say an IPL or ICL consumer. The first set of consumers will be the ones following European football & other ball sports; in turn will invariably draw comparisons between our national game and the globally known beautiful game.  Hockey is a sport that is faster, especially the astro turf version, as compared to Football. This makes it sometimes slightly difficult to pick the ball and action on television. Also a smaller playing surface makes eleven players per side, look a congested sport. So  what is the solution?


WSH should adopt the RIC Charlesworth shorter hockey format-Every Hockey fan across the globe knows Ric Charlesworth.  For the uninitiated Charlesworth is a former great hockey player, a world champion both as a coach and player. One of the sharpest brains in the game of hockey: Charlesworth has developed a format where the number of players will be reduced to eight or seven, relax the ‘carried foul’ rule – which technically will make the game more attacking, faster & free flowing.  The first tournament with this format will be held in Australia in October, exactly two months before the proposed start of the first edition of the WSH. It is imperative for the promoters & organizers of WSH to inspect and adopt this format for its league.  Imagine if IPL was played in the ODI format or the tests format! Would it have met with the same success? Your answer determines the importance for WSH in tweaking field hockey from its present avatar to make it a successful mass-sport & television friendly product.


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World Series Hockey will Change Landscape of Indian Sports

Having followed, worked and written for cricket leagues, I am most enthused with the latest initiation by the Nimbus sports group with the World Series Hockey.  With the opening of the Indian economy and exposure to global sport –one is a little bewildered by the fact that India still remains a single sport nation in terms of sports disciplines with mass following. Yes there are niche sports like Tennis, golf, F1 et al, which are showing growth: however with a neo-rich clientele, their mass appeal is restricted! What Indian sport badly needs, is a sport on the lines of ball sports (soccer in Europe, American football in US and Rugby in Australia and South Africa) -middle class, athletic, fast paced and devoid of an entry barrier, for the common man to pursue. 

The identification of that fast paced sport boils down to none other than India’s national game- HOCKEY.

Why Hockey?  If one identifies other potential sporting disciplines with mass appeal, the ones that come to mind are volleyball and football! However and more so unfortunately, both these disciplines do not have the Indians standards on par at world standards. Despite the growing popularity of football in our country, one needs to understand that the popularity & following exists for European or world cup football and not the Indian version, which is still some years away from achieving top global standards. That boils down the identification of a sporting discipline other than cricket, with pan India potential; boiling down to Hockey. A rich history, coupled with a contemporary Indian team that remains a top ten hockey nation of the world makes Hockey the ideal sport. Additionally the Indian brand of hockey is unique & attractive. The Indian players still are some of the most skillful and right up there with the best in the world.


World Series Hockey will formulate Hockey as a career option for the average young sportsman


Ever since the launch of the World Series Hockey , an initiative by Nimbus sports with IHF; one sees roadblocks  &  threats from parallel bodies and the FIH ( premiere world body for Hockey).  This is the most unfortunate thing that one could see, to an initiative that goes with the mission statement – Reinvigorating Indian Hockey.  The critics and opponents of this league have been misleading the Indian fan by stating that players have been choosing commercial interests over country.  These people need to understand that alone national passion cannot bring about a following for the game! Despite an adequately large talent pool, the number of kids taking to hockey has diminished.  The major reason for this can be pointed to lack of lucrative commercial & social value in playing the sport. What a player needs is a sport where even if he does not get into the national team: he/she could make a good living, earn a social standing and exhibit his talent to a respectable audience base. This is what league sport does to a sporting discipline! It helps garner larger following, generates decent player-salaries, helps set up job opportunities for support staff, coaches’ et al. Most importantly it encourages a young enthusiast and his family to confidently pursue the game as a career option. This is what IPL has done to cricket and is exactly what WSH will do to Hockey.  For the people at FIH and HI (on war path with IHF) my humble request would be – this initiative will build the brand value of hockey, creating great opportunity for   bi lateral series between nations, delivering unprecedented financial revenues! My advice to FIH and HI is simple, concentrate on international hockey (test series between nations et al) and leave league hockey to nimbus and IHF which will act as a catalyst for your international operations, both in terms of popularity and monetary benefits.



Why WSH is a far better product as compared to PHL from ESPN – Star


Well as ironical as it may seem; comparisons between the PHL, India’s first sports league and WSH is inevitable. However I would like to state and as rightly pointed out by the Nimbus chief Harish Thawani, WSH is building all the right ingredients (home and away, franchisees et al) to make it a complete sports league. The PHL was a half baked job, where the players were fit into different teams as is done is school competitions.  All matches were played at a single or two destinations, taking away the true home and away flavor of league matches. Also important to point with WSH is the induction of franchisees. Multiple owners reduces the capital investment burden and propagates fair & dynamic competition between franchisees, resulting in diversity that sets the true flavor of league sport.


In the final analysis this brilliant initiative will transform hockey from an amateur sport to a professional sport. It will change the landscape of Indian sports from a ‘single sport following nation’ to a multi-discipline sporting nation. Hockey today galvanizes the Indian public only once in 4 years during the Olympics. This according to me is a gross injustice to a sport that is our national sport, enjoys a rich legacy & sees us competitive at the highest standards of the game. This is Indian sports’ moment of liberalization. It will bring in riches and social recognition for the sport, its affiliate bodies and players. In turn it will make sport a way of life for a vibrant young population.

I personally believe that WSH has a far more significant role in shaping the future of Indian sport, even more than initiatives like the IPL.  I would urge opinion makers in Indian sport, a vibrant media et al- to take up the cause of WSH as much as they have for cricket and IPL. The benefits for the same will be for all to earn in the long run.


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True account of the IPL; through the eyes of an insider

The first clarification that this blog writer would like post is that this is no fake IPL player; everything is real and is based on true life experiences of an individual, well entrenched into the Indian sports business sector for over two decades. The gentleman was mentioned by the IPL propaganda machinery as the front runner for one of the two IPL teams that got announced yesterday. I met this gentleman over coffee and sandwiches at a city (not naming the city as his identity would become obvious) hotel, on Friday evening; to my surprise he announced that the IPL is not a viable business model.

 His take was that it was a valuation bubble that could burst any time. I was shocked as I have seen him carry out a detailed evaluation process on the IPL model, for the last three years right since its inception. He proclaimed that when he first heard of the IPL he thought it would be on the lines of the EPL and major American sport leagues; to his astonishment he just sees it as an ego trip for business men, cine celebrities and an IPL czar taking everyone on a ride.

His biggest disappointment was laid in the fact that it was a big time opportunity wasted to introduce league and club sports culture in India.

 The gentleman says the following are the apt acronyms of what IPL stands for and his reasons for the same:

 Indian Parivar League – since more than 40% of the teams are directly or indirectly co-owned by the IPL Commissioner and his extended family, there is no transparency in the bidding process, no body is informed about the exact holding of the stake holders and their actual investments. Genuine bidders are sidetracked and family and friends of the commissioner end up winning the bids. The media has well documented the relationship between the commissioner and his coterie who own the teams.

 Indian Pre-determined League – the team owners had clearly predetermined their cities and the price to be paid for the same. The gentleman cannot believe that the city his consortium and organization had bid for, could not win the bid. He clearly pointed out how a city close to one of the key IPL honcho was chosen over the city he had bid for, confining his choice of city, as a mere catchment’s area. According to the gentleman the city he wanted as the host of his proposed IPL franchisee, still contributes more money than that generated by the entire catchment’s area and host city, represented by this team. He is of the clear opinion that this team has the IPL honcho as its biggest stakeholder.

 Indian Pre-programmed League – The biggest revelation came when the gentleman told me that all the matches are fixed. In the earlier season these was being speculated, but now even the media has information that all the matches are blatantly fixed; according to him. Interestingly this observation was mentioned by the gentleman on Friday evening, He asked me to which teams; I felt were favorites for the two matches the following day. The first had the resurgent KKR Vs the depleted Rajasthan. The second match featured Mumbai and Bangalore. My answer was KKR and Mumbai. He asked me to check the odds with some bookies; I found the matches according to the bookies were in favor of the teams I had chosen….. The gentleman told me that results would be a complete reversal to my prediction…… by 11.30 PM on Saturday night I knew I was wrong, the team that had the odds stacked against it, won….. Rajasthan and Bangalore won despite being the weaker sides on that day.

 Indian Poverty League – since no single team has yet attracted any valuation or buyer in reality even after 3 years reflects on the true valuation and financial status of the IPL. The gentleman has authenticated proof that the Rajasthan Royals has been on sale since the day they got the franchise and have tried to sell to every Indian Business house with a higher valuation. Likewise Deccan Chargers was on sale throughout 2009 at the floor price that had won them the bid. In both case no buyers came up till date, simple reason; the P& L statements was dominated by a prominent red color.

Indian Playacting League – since all the players are completely disinterested and only going through the motions in this jamboree; play acting in front of the cameras to fool the gullible viewers is part of the diktat from the IPL organizing committee. Players are encouraged to show their disappointment when the camera focuses on them, when the team in a precarious position. Similarly over the top celebrations are mandatory acts, delegated to the players post a pre-scripted win.

 Indian Pompous League – since the job of the camera crew is to follow the Commissioner as he makes his every move on the ground. The great ex-cricketers have been bought off to sing praises to him and forcibly applaud the game and the format. Eg   He has passed strict instructions to a former Indian captain to call him the Moses of World Cricket. As the production is managed by the IPL strict instructions are passed to the commentators and experts to validate all the IPL commissioner’s statements: like when he shoots his mouth off, regarding the IPL becoming bigger than NBA etc in the future.

 Indian Public duping league – since the gates of every match are thrown open within half hour of the start of the match and still empty. Strict instructions are given out to the event organizers and franchisees’ that packed stadiums are a must….. If as a public you are buying tickets before the match, take the gentleman’s advice wait outside the stadium till about 15 minutes after the match starts, you will be guided to a free seat inside the stadium.

Indian Pre-primary School League – As the gentleman has found out from his friends in the cricket community, associated with IPL as the supports staff across the teams; it is humiliating for the former cricketers and coaches of International repute,  to take diktats and suggestions from team owners especially the women folk, presented the team by husbands and boyfriends. The cricket knowledge of our starlets and Bhabhi is outrageous. Bhabhi called Ambati Ruyudu, “Ambawadi” post the first match. The less said about Shilpa and Preity the better- a whole blog can be dedicated on the diktats from Bhabhi’s & Didis’.

 Indian Political League – since the overt political power struggle between the Commissioner and BCCI officials & MCA is out in the open now. The last is not heard on this front. You also have an irked home minister and members of the ruling party who are looking at taking on the wily commissioner, who slapped them on the face, by taking IPL-2 to South Africa.

 Indian Philandering League – because that’s what everyone seems to be up to especially Shane Warne and his fellow international contingent. Take a look at Warne’s unfit physic and hidden abs. Yuvraj with his new girlfriend, post a humiliating loss of his team in Bangalore, are just scratching the surface in what is cricket’s version of Love, Sex and Dhoka. The gentleman says that as he was privy to a few post match parties in IPL 1 & 2; if he had a hidden camera with him, he would make the Bollywood flick Love Sex and Dhoka appear Pale.

 Indian Party League – The gentleman believes that he is fine with peripheral packaging of a sports product with the glamour quotient, provided the central focus on the product remains sport. However what everyone seems to be interested is, in the party and Bollywood tamasha, since there’s no cricket left in this circus. The players are seen more in action, off the field that on it. In a few years time teams may party on the pitch itself instead of playing cricket.

  For the readers of this blog, all I can promise is that I have blocked appointments with the gentleman periodically over the next few days as the IPL dupes its viewers and the cricket fans…… I am sure you are waiting for the next revelation from the gentleman on the happenings in and around the IPL

 Till then happy reading

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