Kolkata: The addition of two new franchises, Gujarat Lions and Lucknow Supergiants, will certainly make the Indian Premier League an even stronger brand in coming years, according to one of the popular owner figures of the league.
‘‘The IPL had already been the biggest franchise cricket league in the world but with new franchises coming in from this year, it is going to open up newer markets in western India (Gujarat) as well as the Hindi-speaking heartland (Lucknow). You can make out with the quantum leap in valuation of teams and the kind of global bidders who had thrown their hats in the ring - from promoters of Formula One to owners of Premiership clubs,’’ said Ness Wadia, co-owner of Punjab Kings.
The bidding process for the two new teams was conducted in Dubai last October during the T20 World Cup which saw RPSG Ventures Ltd, headed by Indian industrial baron Sanjiv Goenka, bidding an astronomical INR 7.9 billion ($ 94.42 million, Dh 346.86m) to acquire the Lucknow franchise while Irelia Company Private Limited (CVC Capital Partners, the US-based equity firm with stakes in Formula One) bid INR 5.6 billion ($ 74.6 million, Dh 273.9m) for Ahmedabad, respectively.
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Speaking to Gulf News in an exclusive phone interview from Mumbai, Wadia - a leading industrialist - said it had been quite a rollercoaster ride for all the stakeholders of the IPL from the tentative start in 2008 when all had to endure losses in the initial years. ‘‘Speaking from my experience of running a stream of business, I can tell you that this is an unique business proposition which is risk-proof as the return on investment is guaranteed. I am glad that the BCCI had taken their time to finally take the plunge and feel there is a scope to add more teams in future,’’ said Wadia.
There is a murmur of discontent among the IPL fans that they will be deprived of watching the home teams play in their respective venues except Mumbai Indians - more so for the fans in Ahmedabad and Lucknow. The BCCI has, keeping their experience of last year in mind, decided to host all their 70 group league matches in three venues in Mumbai and Pune - a decision which met with Wadia’s approval.
‘‘See, it’s better to safe than sorry after last year’s unfortunate experience. We should be happy that the IPL has come back to India after a gap of two years and come next year, let’s hope matches can be held across the 10 venues of the country,’’ he said.
Looking ahead on the cricketing front, Wadia struck an upbeat note that Punjab Kings has what it takes to go all the way this year after making a well-rounded outfit in the auction. ‘‘Our cricketing brains have struck a fine balance where not only we have picked up some world class performers in Shikhar Dhawan, Jonny Bairstow, Liam Livingstone and Kagiso Rabada, but the support cast of Indian players is a strong one with Shahrukh Khan, Arshdeep Singh and Raj Bawa, the allrounder from the World Cup winning Under-19 Indian team. We have a new captain in Mayank (Agarwal), who has brought in a lot of energy in the side,’’ he observed.
The Mohali-based team’s best finish had been a runners-up spot in 2014, while they have often flattered to deceive in recent years and eventually failed to make the play-offs. When reminded about it, Wadia said: ‘‘We cannot change the past, but the future is in our hands. With all new-look teams, I think it’s an even playing field this year and this gives us our best chance.’’