It is tough to believe that the world’s most lucrative cricketing league, Indian Premier League (IPL) was an individual’s plan. IPL was the brainchild of “Modi”, a familiar name to the Indian audience, but the first name here is neither Narendra nor Nirav but is ‘Lalit’.
Lalit Modi, soon after completing his degree in marketing at Duke University, United States, got into his family business. He was fanatical about cricket, which doesn’t sound strange as coming from a cricket crazy nation. His enthusiasm for cricket and strong business acumen gave birth to a business model of IPL, a commercial cricketing league which would feature top stars of all Test playing nations. An unprecedented venture at that time. While in states Modi was partially inspired by National Basketball Association, a basketball league in the United States operating since 1946. He made an airtight plan where he even managed to convince ESPN to own the broadcasting rights for the tournament, before even approaching the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). Ironically, the wealthiest cricketing board in today’s world, BCCI, which generates most of its revenue from IPL, had first turned down its proposal. But Modi, refusing to give up on his dream, persuaded several influential authorities to get on the other side. In this pursuit, he came across Sharad Pawar, a phenomenal Indian politician, and a vivid cricketing enthusiast. In 2005, Modi managed to convince Pawar to run for BCCI’s president, against Ranbir Singh who was a reigning president at the time. Singh was backed by Jagmohan Dalmiya, former president of BCCI who had refused the initial plan of IPL. In November 2005, Modi allegedly used his legal contacts to press corruption charges against Dalmiya which resulted in ousting Singh from the presidential race as a member of Dalmiya’s close ally. This essentially led to Pawar becoming the president and Modi assuming reigns as the youngest vice-president of BCCI. (Pfeffer, 2010)
Three years later, BCCI launched IPL naming Modi as chairman & commissioner of the league which gave him absolute power. Modi left no stone unturned when it came to promoting IPL, he invited Bollywood actors, businessmen, and several industrialists to bid for teams. IPL turned out to be a massive success with BCCI tripling its revenue within the first year of IPL. (Cricbuzz Staff , 2010). Modi also introduced the Champions League, which would feature top domestic teams from major cricketing nations to compete in twenty over format. However, this unprecedented success of Modi didn’t last for too long. After the conclusion of IPL’10, things changed dramatically. Problems started arising when he disclosed the details of the ownerships for new teams to be introduced in IPL’11. The ownership details revealed free stakes offered to the then-girlfriend of the virtual English teacher of Indian millennials (Shashi Tharoor) who was the Minister of External Affairs then. Tharoor was accused of corruption and misusing his powers where the opposition had pressured to an extent where he was forced to resign from his position. This led to the government launching an investigation into IPL. (BBC, 2010). An investigation found that various documents were missing from IPL’s office which Tax officials had asked for. Modi was accused of several charges like rigging bids in the 2010 player auction, selling media and internet rights without authorisation of the board, offering bribes, and secretly planning a T20 League in England without notifying English and Indian boards. Modi was notified about his possible suspension from BCCI & IPL fifteen days before the conclusion of the 2010 season. BCCI demanded an explanation against the allegations under Clause-32(iv) of the Memorandum and Rules & Regulation of BCCI. (Hindustan Times, 2013). Failing to convince the BCCI, he was ultimately sacked, and further investigation was launched against him. From being Vice-president of the wealthiest cricketing board in April to getting sacked & virtual exile to London in September, Modi’s life had it all. Several unauthorised transactions amounting to millions involved Enforcement Directorate into the investigation. BCCI continued its investigation against Modi and in 2013, announced him guilty of committing serious acts of misconduct and indiscipline. He was then banned for life to hold any positions related to BCCI. Modi fled to London and never came back. (The Economics Times, 2013). In 2015, ED issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against him.
Controversies have followed Modi all his life, be it for getting arrested in the states for alleged drug abuse or the lack of transparency in business deals. Almost none of his business deals were renewed by his partners due to a lack of transparency. (FinnovationZ, n.d.)
It is rightly said ‘Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.’ Absolute power with a negative intent was precisely what led to Modi altering finances and rigging auctions. This also raises an interesting question, ‘Can such an invasive corruption be the brainchild of one man?’
Still today, Modi claims to be a proud father of IPL, denying all of BCCI’s allegations.