The worst 20 crore spent on an event: Lalit Modi
Former Indian Premier League chief, Lalit Modi talks to Malavika Sangghvi on the T20 event's much-ridiculed opening ceremony and other issues
Why didn’t you like the IPL ceremony?
Firstly, for a sporting event to even consider having an opening ceremony anywhere else than a stadium to me is just foolish. The objective should be to start the long awaited event in a manner where we honour the teams and embrace the fans, and put a glow in the minds of our viewers around the world. It should have been a celebration of things to come.
What was the most boring/appalling part of it?
The whole concept of stringing Bollywood acts together was a complete disaster to me. It was just like another award show. If one wanted to tune into a Bollywood show then I guess that is something I would watch. But I was looking forward to watching an opening ceremony for a sporting event.
Had you still been in charge, what would you have done instead?
Well, I always believed in innovation year on year. As you would have seen from Year One to Three, we constantly innovated. The key and foremost would be a pre-game show and in a stadium so that everyone was part of the ceremony. There was enough going on around the ground for 60,000 spectators to cheer about and millions across the world to smile upon. It would definitely not be for a select few in front rows to watch an award show. I would have ensured that there was something new that people had not seen live or at an event like this. We used to research constantly of how to make it more appealing for the fans and also how to ensure best production value. Here, it was just another show. What was new or innovative or not seen before? Probably, the worst Rs 20 crore I am told they spent. Even the Bollywood acts could have been streamlined to give it a sporting flair. Yes, in past we had a Bollywood Item in our ceremonies. But it was no more than 10 to 15 per cent of the show. Here, with no disrespect to the Bollywood community which, mind you, is fantastic - but in my mind, it was definitely not appropriate. Whose ever idea it was, it just had no feel of how to run or market a sporting event; had complete disconnect with the sports-loving fan. This is probably the worst 20 crore spent on an event.
Are you going to be closely watching the next 45 days?
Yes, I will be watching the event daily. Now that the opening is behind us, the matches is what matters and I am sure that it will be a highly competitive and enthralling event over the next 45 days. We have the best players from the world and I am looking forward to it.
What do you think are this season’s weakest points: money collection, logistical organisation, viewer interest, internal politics, dressing room politics...
In my view, it will be to ensure viewers’ interest. IPL is just not only about cricket. It’s a Cricketainment product. It has to be looked at as much as on-field performance by teams and what goes on around it. That’s what the fans want to see and read about. It’s supposed to be all encompassed. I am worried that there may be a disconnect with current management and fans expectations. I hope I am wrong.
Do you EVER think you’ll be back where you belong? Running the IPL to international standards again?
IPL is not the domain of one person. I am happy I was able to realise my dream and create a world-class product. We all have to move on and so does the IPL. Irrespective who is running it, I am sure it will continue to grow. Hiccups, we can all have in life, but we all should learn from them and move on. IPL too will overcome its hiccups and will continue to warm our hearts. And yes, I am very much a part of it - and it’s a part of me which will never go away.
Everyone feels you fell foul of jealousy and big egos... what do you feel?
It’s part of life especially in India where we have a crab mentality. No one can digest others’ good work. I just hope they don’t mess things further. It’s simple - one should not fix what’s not broken. Hope the mandarins at the BCCI realise that and nurture and grow what they have got rather than try and change what’s proven to be an exciting, fun event.
A word of advice for IPL team owner Vijay Mallya during his time of trouble?
This too shall pass. I strongly believe in that.