Wednesday 13 February 2008 

Lalit Modi: IPL Will Boost Global Game Of Cricket

The multi-million dollar Indian Premier League (IPL) will not cast a shadow over international cricket and will be a boon to the game around the world, says the chairman of the new Twenty20 tournament.

Lalit Modi told Reuters in an interview that the Indian board's league, which is sanctioned by the International Cricket Council and due for launch on April 18, would actually motivate players to earn more caps for their country.

Worries that cash-rich India would exert its financial muscle to make the IPL a more lucrative option than international cricket were unfounded, he added.

"As far as the IPL is concerned, the value of a player to us is only if he is playing for his national side. We have put enough safeguards into the system to ensure that," Modi said.

The IPL, to be played in March and April each year, has eight franchises that were sold for a combined $700 million (358 million pounds) to companies and consortiums last month for a 10-year period.

More than 80 international cricketers are expected to feature in a players' auction in Mumbai on February 20 with each franchise having a cap of $5 million.

Modi was confident the 16 Australian players contracted would be available to take part in the auction and that an ongoing sponsorship row between the IPL and Cricket Australia (CA) would be resolved.

CA want protection for its sponsors during the IPL, a request the organisers have rejected.

Modi said the benefits of the IPL far outweighed any negatives.

"It benefits world cricket because it benefits all their players -- they are able to supplement their income by coming to us," he said.

"It is not of benefit to us (Indian board) alone, it is to the benefit of everybody else. Also keep in mind, the months we have scheduled this in --- April and May --- there are not many countries usually playing international cricket." The tournament, which was set up to counter an unofficial Indian Twenty20 league that began late last year, will be played over 44 days in eight cities and will feature 59 matches aimed at prime-time television in India, which has a population of 1.1 billion people and the world's biggest cricket audience.

Organisers announced last month they had secured a 10-year rights contract worth more than $1 billion for the league. Television rights were worth $918 million, with another $100 million for the league's promotion.

"We want the IPL to be one of the icon brands in the world and we are going to push everything that is required to achieve that," said Modi, who is also a vice president of the Indian cricket board.

Modi said a soccer-style Champions League, involving teams from several countries, was a possibility for the future. The IPL had also lined up several top international umpires for the inaugural event and he expected the franchises to recruit top coaches from around the world.

"You have the best playing the best, officiated by the best," Modi said.

Australia's tour of Pakistan next month clashes with the IPL but Modi said there should not be any conflict.

"We are confident that those not playing in the Pakistan series will play here," Modi said.

© Reuters 2008