Difficult to have Pakistan players in the IPL; but nobody can predict future: Arun Dhumal

Arun Dhumal (Image: IPL)

On April 18, 2008, cricket changed. On the field, Brendon McCullum was the king, hammering a 73-ball 158 not out for Kolkata Knight Riders against Royal Challengers Bangalore. Off it, the advent of the Indian Premier League had a ripple effect on the entire cricket world and beyond. The baby is in its teens now, and through ups and downs, it has grown exponentially. In an interview with RevSportz, IPL chairman Arun Dhumal spoke about the tournament’s evolution, hiccups and much more. Excerpts:

Q: What was your initial reaction when the IPL started 17 seasons ago?

A: Well, the IPL no doubt started with a bang in 2008 and it has been a phenomenal ride ever since. The quality of games makes it what it is. In fact, the game on Tuesday between KKR and Rajasthan Royals – the quality of the game is what makes the IPL what it is today. So, it’s been a great journey so far for the BCCI and it has not only transformed Indian cricket, it has also taken world cricket forward.

The kind of changes that we have seen in ODIs and Test cricket also, it has had a trickle-down effect. We all remember that Sachin Tendulkar was the first to score a double-hundred in ODIs. After that, how many double-hundreds have come up in that format? A total of 250-300 used to be a good score in ODIs, now we are getting scores of 270, 280 in T20 games and 400-plus in ODIs. In Tests also, nobody is playing for a draw. That is how this tournament has changed world cricket.

The way we have seen the game grow in different regions, this is how the IPL has changed the game.

Q: Would you say Bazball is also a trickle-down effect of the IPL?

A: It is up to the media to coin such terms, but I would say the inherent quality of the game remains the same. Ultimately, you have to bowl well as a bowler and bat well as a batsman. There are many terms that the media keeps on coining, but the IPL has transformed so many things in the way we play this game. This is one more addition to that.

Q: How has the IPL helped Indian cricket grow?

A: The kind of talent that you see is phenomenal. The bench strength that India have got in the last few years is down to the IPL. It has pumped in a lot of money into the BCCI funds and alternatively into domestic cricket. It has helped us create better infrastructure, more tournaments, more games… All thanks to the IPL.

Arun Dhumal during IPL 2024 IPL Auction (Image: IPL)

Q: Did you ever think that the IPL would grow into a $10 billion property?

A: See, when we come to valuation, I mean we haven’t gone to the market to know the valuation. This has been worked out by various agencies, but in case if we have to value it fairly, it would be much more than $10 billion.

Q: The IPL has contributed to grassroots cricket also, isn’t it?

A: Definitely. It has helped domestic cricket, domestic tournaments, women’s cricket and the WPL. It has helped domestic cricketers and women cricketers. We run the show without any kind of (monetary) support from governments.

Q: Would you say the IPL is one of the top three sporting leagues in the world, on a par with the Premier League and the NFL?

A: As far as cricket is concerned, it is undoubtedly the No. 1. In fact, the revenue we get per match (in excess of Rs 100 crore) is bigger than (the Premier League). Football is played all over the world. When it comes to cricket, we have 15-20 major countries. So, you cannot make a comparison with football.

Q: The IPL has gone through turmoil. When the 2013 spot-fixing scandal happened, a lot of people had written the tournament’s obituary. The title sponsor had pulled out. But the IPL bounced back. What is your take on that?

A: See, everything goes through ups and downs. It is just that you have to maintain the quality of the games and we took strong notice of whatever had happened at that point in time and made sure that such things never get repeated. Fans are the most important and critical component of any sporting event. We can’t cheat them. Whatever trust measures the BCCI had to take, we have taken that and it reflected in the quality of games and made sure that kind of a thing never repeats.

Q: Lalit Modi is persona non grata in Indian cricket. But the IPL is 17 seasons old and somewhere, should he be given a little bit of credit for masterminding the whole thing?

A: Let us not get into any names. I won’t like to respond to that.

Q: In the foreseeable future, any chance that we would see Pakistan cricketers in the IPL?

A: We can’t predict the future. But the ties that we have (now), we know for sure that we aren’t playing any bilateral cricket with them. It is difficult to have Pakistan players in the IPL. Regarding the future, nobody can predict that.