Cricket in India: Moving Into a League of Its Own - India Knowledge@Wharton
"Yes, priorities have changed for a segment of the population," says Sridhar Samu, professor of marketing at the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad. Adds Bamzai: "Cricket today is a metaphor for change." According to Ashish Kaul, executive vice-president of the Indian Cricket League (ICL), a rival to IPL: "We as a country have reached a stage where entertainment is a basic necessity and not a leisure activity. Cricket is the lowest common denominator of this country and perhaps the largest entertainer."
Corporate India -- in the form of the new cricket leagues -- will give the fans all the change they want. The game in its Twenty20 format has metamorphosed a great deal from its traditional five-day test match version. The first innovation -- the 50-over-a-side, one-day variety -- offended the purist; Twenty20, for them, is sheer slam-bam. But so what? "People anyway watch only the last 20 overs of a one-day match," says Modi. "We are giving them concentrated cricket, concentrated entertainment."
The franchisees are working overtime to ensure that the new format works. In Hyderabad, Deccan Chronicle is talking about hiring special trains to bring in fans from the hinterland. The train ride will be an experience in itself, with marketing men salivating at the thought of such a focused and captive audience, which also has time on its hands during the journey. In Kolkata, Shah Rukh Khan is planning a special women's stand, while he makes the occasional guest appearance. Meanwhile, the Delhi team has hired an Indian Institute of Management (Ahmedabad) alumnus, a 45-year-old former colonel in the Indian Army, as assistant vice-president (operations). Corporatization and professionalization are clearly the watchwords of the day.