'The IPL is fatafat cricket'   (17 Mar 2008)

The Rediff Cricket Interview | Rajiv Shukla
March 17, 2008

Journalist-turned politician Rajiv Shukla is better know as vice-president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India. The director of Bhagwan Allah God (BAG) Films, which wife Anuradha Prasad successfully runs, Shukla has a canny sense of politics. His in-depth knowledge of the political jungle of Uttar Pradesh and networking skills in the film and cricket world has taken him places.


A Rajya Sabha member, he is also part of the Congresss media team and has a good rapport with Priyanka Vadra. His family relationship with film star Shah Rukh Khan  is a matter of envy, but Shukla also has the flair to balance his rapport with two stalwarts of the Indian cricket establishment -- Sharad Pawar and Arun Jaitely.
In an interview with Managing Editor Sheela Bhatt, Shukla talks about the commercialization of the game in the country and how, through the Indian Premier League, the BCCI is set to brew a heady cocktail of cricket and Bollywood.


Excerpts:
On the auction of cricketers:
Those who are criticizing the IPL auction need an explanation. They are not aware of whole concept of the IPL. If somebody follows the English Premier League, or other sports worldwide, they will realise that it is not different from the IPL. The IPL is on the lines of the EPL and there is nothing wrong in auctioning players. Not only does the actual value of the player come out, but, now, nobody can get into the league by any other means.


· The Indian Premier League
If he is talented, and can deliver, only then these franchises will take him. It is not that if somebody recommends his name, or pushes his name, he can make it. I think the actual value of players will be arrived at this way. These tournaments are only for one-and-a-half months in April-May. The remaining time, Test series and one-day matches will go on. There is no harm in players being traded; this is nothing new. Its a worldwide practice. Why should people object when people from humble backgrounds are becoming millionaires?
Most of the Indian cricketers come from lower middle class families. They rise from humble backgrounds. What prohibits the national game from making money? The game will go on. This is a win-win situation for everybody. More people will watch cricket now; hundreds of players will become millionaires now!


·  Dravid ready for Twenty20 challenge
Thirdly, infrastructure will develop. Once these league matches take place, we will need stadiums of international size. Junior cricketers will get a chance to make it to international cricket. Money is going to everybody. In name of the national game one  doesnt go to Himalayas and do tapsaya for its development.
Is the IPL in reaction to the Indian Cricket League?


The IPL is not in response to the ICL at all. The concept of the IPL was conceived long back. Originally, it was Sharad Pawars idea. Later, the  concept was built upon by Lalit Modi. Then IMG [International Management Group] entered. There is a governing council comprising Lalit Modi, myself, Arun Jaitely, Ravi Shastri, MAK Pataudi, Sunil Gavaskar [Images] and Chirayu Amin. I dont think the IPL was formed in reaction to the ICL. I still maintain that there is no confrontation with the ICL. They should do their job and we are doing our own job.


Will the money get you results?


Without playing the IPL our cricketers are becoming millionaires, so the so-called effect of big money on humble players cant be traced to the IPL. If it [the negative impact of money] is there it should be already present. Its a myth, a misconception, that players get carried away by money. I dont know why this phobia of money is being generated. There are other sectors where money is coming and people are welcoming it. We are not taking money from the governments coffers. The corporate sector is voluntarily coming and bidding for the game. They are giving money; we are not taking public money.
Players also realize that, and I want to make it very clear here that I have been manager of Indian cricket team thrice and understand the feelings and mindsets of the players as very few people in the cricket world do.
The players also realize that as long as they are playing well and performing, money is going to come. If they dont, money wont come in. The players know that if they dont perform, the franchises will drop them immediately. It will take a minute to drop the players. Even the BCCI will not take any players lacking in talent. Because of television, everybody is under scrutiny. It is a short-lived career for players.


It is true that the Ranji Trophy is not getting an audience, but it is continuing. Through it the junior cricket games are working well. The element of nationalism or, I should say, jingoism is absent there, so crowds are not coming to see Ranji [matches]. But through Ranji events we are able to produce these talents. Remember, Ranji [Trophy] is not 20-20.
The long-term effect of the IPL will see cricket will grow manifold. A lot of people will get involved with it. It will provide employment and opportunities to junior and young players. It will be as big as football in many countries. You will get money only when you are liked by people. If the game is well-organized, if their [the players] game is popular, then only the cricketer will get money.


· Dhoni, Symonds top IPL players auction


Why are other sports not as popular as cricket? Because, they are not well-organised as the BCCI is able to; they are not able to produce talent as the BCCI is able to. Because of the effort and endeavour put in by the BCCI the game is very popular. Only when people are attracted does money come. Always, money comes later; it doesnt arrive first. I am bullish about the IPL and I think the audience will come. We will get a crowd at most stadiums, but it has to be the mix of the game and entertainment, so that people dont get bored.
Every franchise will have some entertaining events at the venue. Like having the cheer- girls; during the gaps there could be some Bollywood events also. The whole idea is that a person who goes to see the match should thoroughly enjoy it for two hours. We want to entertain them. There wont be any jingoism; there will be only entertainment. People should have fun when they come to see the game.


People will throng the stadiums because its a different combination, which includes foreign players and celebrities. The Ranji Trophy doesnt have the 20-20 format. This is one-and-half hour of quick cricket with entertainment, where people will go for fun. The IPL is fatafat [fast] cricket! In fact, the players are jumping over the idea of the IPL. They are bullish and happy over it. Now there will be the larger bank of players, not just Dhoni  or Indian players. The Australians and other countries players are happy too. Everybody wants to play for the IPL.


You should admire the kind of name India has generated through this IPL all over the world. Preity Zinta  and others are completely dedicated. Preity was working day and night before the auction. Now-a-days, Shah Rukh is eating cricket, drinking cricket and sleeping with cricket. He is busy in deciding how to put up the team, how to merchandise, how to make the event lively. Franchises will be spending around Rs 50 to 60 crore per team.


I am a member of the governing council of the IPL, so I would say all the teams are great. Everybody has stars and a good combination of players, but in the case of Kolkatta, Mohali and Mumbai even the team owners are stars.
Mukesh Ambani, who owns Mumbai, sometimes plays cricket. His sons are greatly interested. In Jamnagar, he often organises a match. Shah Rukh was in the cricket team of  St. Columbus, his school, also. His son is crazy about Ricky Ponting  so he opted for him.

 

Rajeev Shukla