Manoj Badale, chairman and joint owner of Rajasthan Royals, the IPL Season One champs, defines Shilpa Shetty’s role in the team and this year’s plans.. quizzed by Nikhil Taneja...
You were the underdogs last season and surprised everyone by lifting the IPL trophy. This season, as the reigning champs, you will undoubtedly be under a lot of pressure. You are always under pressure. It’s a big tournament.. there are huge expectations and money riding on the team.
(Smiles) But yes, it’s a different challenge this time.
It’s the players who have to cope. I leave cricket to the coaches and players and don’t get directly involved.
Any mistakes you’ll try not to repeat?
There’s a lot more we can do in terms of marketing and creating local awareness. On the pitch too, there were some plans which worked.. some which didn’t. (Shrugs) You make mistakes, and learn from them.
You had only seven-eight weeks to prepare for Season One. This time, you’ve had over a year. That should help?
Absolutely. On the field, we’ve had extensive trials and a lot more talent scouting. Off it, we’ve been able to develop our merchandising and licensing plans.. also, local marketing strategies like competitions to increase fan participation.
You’re planning a DVD too, right?
Yeah, a documentary film on the team has been shot. The DVD will be launched in a few weeks. We’re also coming out with a clothing line. The campaign will pick up mid-February.
What have the local players been up to in the months since?
The calendar is always full with local commitments. In fact, they might just have been playing too much cricket. The only sizeable chunk of time we would have spent together, as a family, was during the Champions League. And that was cancelled following the terror attacks in Mumbai.
We did plan a couple of trials for the off-season.. one is starting next week. After the IPL, the local boys will tour England in July and Australia in October-Novemeber.
During Season One Rajasthan Royals had very few local players and not a single ‘iconic’ Indian player. Is that likely to change?
We don’t choose players on the basis of their ‘iconic’ status but their cricketing abilities. If they play well, like Yusuf Pathan, Munaf Patel, Ravindra Jadeja and Swapnil Asnodkar did, they could become household names. Who knew these guys a year ago?
Who fills the void left by Sohail Tanvir?
Morne Morkel, from South Africa. We had a back-up plan in place since we were unsure about whether the Pakistanis would be coming after the Mumbai attacks.
You won’t be bidding for another strike bowler at the auction?
I am not sure if we will be putting in too many bids at the auction. It would get too expensive for us. We already have a well-balanced team. Why buy more players and have them sitting on the bench?
Kolkata Knight Riders have done away with a lot of younger players who spent the tournament sitting on the bench to cut costs. Do you plan to do the same?
No, we have, in fact, increased the number of young players in our team. We already cut costs last year. Our wage bill and franchise fee is half that of other teams. We can afford to increase costs this year.
So you aren’t worried about the recession?
(Smiles) I can’t worry about recession because I need to worry about making money now. The recession will definitely impact the game in that sponsors have become more demanding and fans would also want more for their money. So either you bring down ticket prices or enhance the match experience for them. Increase fan participation and up the celebrity quotient by bringing in more VIPS.
Ah, that explains Shilpa Shetty’s association with the team.
If you want to develop a successful off-field marketing and merchandising strategy nothing works better than Bollywood. But Raj (Kundra) and Shilpa are not investing in the team because of the celebrity quotient. Raj is a successful businessman and Shilpa has some terrific ideas about what can be done with the franchise commercially. As investors, they would be very competitive.
Last year Shane Warne was the face of the Rajasthan Royals. Tell me honestly, hasn’t Shilpa Shetty been brought in to give a management face to the team?
(Laughs) What’s wrong with my face that I’d need Shilpa’s? The face of Rajasthan Royals is and always will be the team.
Once trading starts won’t team loyalties be challenged.. big money is involved?
Well, it is a business like any other business. And communication channels have to be open. Both players and teams have to agree on which player need to be traded. (Smiles) As of now, no one wants to switch loyalties but I guess that’s because no one wants to leave a winning side.
Are there any players you would like to buy from another team?
(Laughs) There are at least 50 of them but there are only 11 places in the team.
Pick one who’d make a difference?
So you agree you’re missing an all-rounder?
(Laughs) Now don’t twist my answer. You asked me to name one player, I did.