A league of his own: Can Lalit Modi overturn world cricket order

  • Pradeep Magazine, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Aug 11, 2015 02:23 IST

While the world applauded Lalit Modi for creating a cricket league rivalling the best in the world of sports, an obvious fact escaped many. The "Moses of cricket", as Ravi Shastri described him, at heart was and is nothing but a simple, plain mercenary, as his claims to the ABC's Four Corners program about creating a rebel cricket body and another league, suggest.

The Indian Premier League may or may not have been his brainchild, but its creation and execution left even his bitter detractors gasping for breath. He had not only challenged cricket's traditional moorings, but also created a new revenue model where profits, riches, glamour and greed blended perfectly to give us a peep into where modern sport and cricket were headed for.

Showing utter disdain for the rules of the game Modi put crony capitalism at the centre of his execution plans, where his relatives, friends and business interests coalesced to create a product, on the strength of an audience bored with the longer format of the game. Megabucks were thrown to lure players of international stature to make the league truly representative of the best in the business.

What his strengths were when the IPL was created with the blessings of the Indian cricket board became his major weaknesses as the power struggle within the establishment escalated.

As one skeleton after another tumbled out of the board's closet, Modi turned overnight into a hated villain from the luminous star who could do no wrong.

A fugitive from the law at the moment, with arrest warrants against him, Modi still draws attention and international scrutiny. The reason is not far to find. Business tycoons across the world, who see great economic potential in the T-20 league, admire the man and have obviously little time for ethical niceties that the traditionalists value so much.

For many Modi admirers, he not only became a victim of his own success but also ruffled many powerful feathers in his ruthless pursuit of making the IPL a grand success. What Kerry Packer had achieved by creating a rebel league with the best players from across the cricketing world, Modi had done with the sanction of the establishment.

By approving of the IPL, the Indian Board had literally privatised cricket, letting big business invest in the game. Now that they have jumped into this game, who is to stop them from taking control of the game itself by dislodging the established powers?

Therefore, it does not come as a surprise that Modi is in touch with those who believe in his product and can use his managerial abilities to create a bigger, better and more ambitious league. A league which will not be subjected to the ICC's rules and regulations and not have a limited number of playing days to contend with.

Will the players oblige? Why not, if the money offered is tempting enough, as David Warner has said. If Packer could do it in the 70s, why can't it be done now?

Modi, given his fugitive status and problems with the Indian state, may not be the right person to lead this new 'revolution' driven purely by greed and profits, but do not underestimate the power of the 'rebels'. The IPL was created to finish off a rebel league launched by Zee TV's Subhash Chandra. Ironically, the IPL itself may have created a strong possibility of dismantling the traditional power structures of cricket as we know them today.


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