Dubai: The seven-week duration of Indian Premier League (IPL) may often seem tedious to many but it’s not long enough to develop a business model around it, according to one of the franchise owners.
“The two-month period of the league is actually rather short to develop a business model,” according to Mohit Burman, one of the co-owners of King’s XI Punjab, who also candidly admitted that his team “did not make any money” in the first six years of IPL. Burman, industrialist Ness Wadia and Bollywood actor Prity Zeinta are the owners of the team based out of Mohali in Chandigarh.
While the IPL VII bandwagon is ready to take the UAE fans by storm in a week’s time, the reality is that barring one or two teams, it had been a losing proposition for the rest of them during the past six years. There have been at least three owners who have stepped aside the wealthy league in the past few years after failing to cope with the heavy financial overheads: the erstwhile Deccan Chargers putting up their franchise for sale, Kochi Tuskers failing to pay the guarantee money as well as the embattled Sahara India.
Speaking to Gulf News in an exclusive interview recently, Burman said there are also a number of factors as to why merchandising — a major source of revenue for sports clubs abroad — have not gathered pace in the IPL. “As per the current auction rules where a team can contract a player for three years, the profile of stars in each team changes frequently to build a loyalty base. In any case, it takes anything between a period of five to 10 years to create the kind of following for merchandising to really prosper,” he observed.
Looking ahead at the on-field action, King’s XI Punjab had been arguably one of the smartest spenders in the auction this year. Strong on Australian flavour, the team is built around the feared paceman Mitchell Johnson, George Bailey, Shaun Marsh, the big hitting South African David Miller and of course Virender Sehwag. If this is not enough, they also have the Ashes-winning coach Darren Lehmann, who guided Chargers to triumph in the 2009 edition.
“For the last two to three years, we had our hands tied for a number of reasons and was hence were more focused on sustenance. The problems are behind us now and we are happy to put together a team which looks capable of winning the tournament,” said Burman.
Given Johnson’s form in the Ashes where he ended with 37 wickets, it was not really a surprise that King’s XI Punjab would break the bank for him. The Australian went for one of the highest price tags at $1.1 million but Burman thinks it’s money well spent: “We needed a strong pace bowler whose four overs can be decisive. In the past, our bowling (read: it’s weaknesses) had been something to talk about and fortunately, we could save money to go for Johnson.”
The other talked about decision was the bid for Sehwag, who was dumped by Delhi Daredevils following his long spell away from the national team and poor run at the domestic level. The decision to acquire him, however, seems a good strategy as he is one of the most worshipped cricketers in the northern part of the country — a factor which can be an added incentive for the fans to turn up at Mohali.
“At the end of the day, Sehwag is an icon player and you cannot question his class. We never thought we could get him for that kind of money and it’s a matter of time before he bounces back with a good performance,” the team owner explained. The ‘Nawab of Nazafgarh’, as he is fondly known for the neighbourhood of New Delhi he comes from, has already made his intent clear with a string of good scores in the ongoing Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy in India.