English T20 league could thrive based on IPL model ... here is how

The ECB would need to treat Kevin Pietersen like a celebrity, not a pariah, link franchises to English Premier League football teams and get One Direction involved.
The England & Wales Cricket Board should embrace controversial figures such as Kevin Pietersen, right, if an English T20 league is to flourish like the IPL, says our columnist. Pawan Singh / The National
The England & Wales Cricket Board should embrace controversial figures such as Kevin Pietersen, right, if an English T20 league is to flourish like the IPL, says our columnist. Pawan Singh / The National

In a light-hearted online interview covering a variety of serious topics last week, Lalit Modi claimed Twenty20 cricket in England could be bigger than the Indian Premier League (IPL).

The inventor of the IPL has all the ideas about how this would come to pass safely locked away between his ears, he says. For sale, presumably, to whoever is willing to make the best offer.

It seems far-fetched. We have seen at first-hand here in the UAE the extraordinary pulling power of the IPL.

Could an English Twenty20 league really sell out 19 matches over 15 consecutive days, most of them during weekdays? And that IPL attendance tally was while the tournament was exiled abroad. It is highly unlikely.

Maybe if they rehashed the whole thing, took away the bats and the leather ball, gave them a Brazuca and some shorts and called it football, they might stand a chance. Otherwise, it seems fanciful.

But why doubt Modi? He has a record, previously unparalleled in cricket, for bringing spectators and television viewers to domestic matches.

It is a record tainted by controversy, mind you, hence his current exile both from the sport and his homeland. But a record for success, no doubt. So what might he have in mind?

Controversy is good

Like a cricketing Gordon Gecko, Modi believes greed is good. He thinks controversy is even better.

A bit of adverse publicity can be a badge of honour in India. That might be why England’s most-talented player is currently plying his trade there, rather than for the national team. Kevin Pietersen was until Sunday playing – albeit, badly – in the IPL rather than in the UK.

While the IPL invents rules to permit the best players in the world to play, no matter their nationality, England’s bosses are happy to push out their own main box office attraction.

Out of sight, out of mind. And out of the news agenda? Erm, no. The England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) should embrace controversial individuals, rather than attempt to muzzle any talk of them at all.

KP Big Brother

We need to talk about Kevin. And most people still do, including the ECB’s top brass and the man himself, despite the spurious confidentiality agreement being in place surrounding his removal as an England player earlier this year.

It is ridiculous that the administrators and law men have tried to spike the Pietersen story. The best PR departments live by the mantra of “tell the truth, and tell it quick”. English cricket did the opposite – and completely lost control of the story.

Alastair Cook, the national team captain, was barred from speaking the truth, and made to look a mug because of it.

The powers that be should mend the broken bridges, invite him back, and take it further by commissioning a reality TV show following his life, airing on T20 match days.

He would love it. And it cannot be any worse than Geordie Shore.

Not counties. Not cities ... but football teams

Modi says he does not understand English county cricket. And it is true that most of the public there do not associate themselves too readily with the counties in which they reside.

The IPL is played by new franchises representing major cities, rather than the pre-existing state sides.

Would the same work in England? Perhaps. A more sure-fire winner, though, would be to get pre-existing sporting organisations with ready and substantial fan bases involved. In the UK, this means football.

When new IPL franchises went out to tender in the early years, Modi claimed he had an English Premier League club interested in investing.

It never did happen. But if the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool bought into English T20 cricket, it would certainly bring some immediate converts to the sport. Each would have a bit of clout in the T20 transfer market, too, presumably.

Get One Direction involved

Not totally spurious, this one. Modi’s initial battle plan for the IPL was non-negotiable: cricket had to be married to the glamour of Bollywood for it to thrive.

The UK does not really have a Bollywood equivalent, and the most visible stars are probably from pop music. No more so than One Direction.

The Dubai-bound boy band are reportedly worth £14 million (Dh86m) per man/boy, so why not invite each of them to buy a franchise? Then all their followers could pick the team owned by their favourite, and, presto, a stack of new supporters.

pradley@thenational.ae

Published: May 25, 2014 04:00 AM

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