Two new teams and increased funding ensure the unstoppable growth of the IPL continues

Momentum is building over the 2022 and 15th Indian Premier League competition. Two new teams — Ahmedabad and Lucknow — have joined to expand the tournament to 10 teams, enlarging the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s coffers by a staggering $1.7 billion.

The BCCI has confirmed that the competition will start in the last week of March and stretch until the end of May. The number of matches to be played will increase from 60 to 74. A majority of franchise owners expressed a wish for the tournament to be held in India, despite concerns over the level of COVID-19 cases. Contingency plans are being discussed between them and the BCCI. One option may be to play behind closed doors in Mumbai and Pune, where grounds of sufficient quality are available and travel can be limited to roads. If the tournament cannot be held in India, the UAE and South Africa are rumored as alternatives.

A mega-auction of players is scheduled to occur in Bengaluru on Feb. 12 and 13. Ahead of this, the existing eight franchised teams were able to retain four players from their 2021 squad, based on a maximum of three Indian players, two overseas players and two uncapped Indians. Nov. 30, 2021 was the deadline to announce the retention list. Out of the possible total of 32 players, 27 names were announced, 15 capped Indians, four uncapped and eight overseas. The two new franchises had until Jan. 22 to pick three players from the pool of released players, two Indians and one overseas.

Players, with the approval of their respective boards, submit their name and price to the BCCI. Registration closed on Jan. 20 with 1,214 entries, comprising 270 capped players (61 of whom are Indian), 903 uncapped and 41 from associate countries. 

Australia had the highest number of registrations with 59 followed by South Africa with 48. The list was then sent to the franchisees on Jan. 21 for them to return their own list of preferred bids, from which the IPL governing council prepared a shortlist. This was released on Feb. 1 and comprised 590 names, 370 Indian and 220 overseas.

The scene is set for the mega-auction, which will be streamed on Disney owned Star Sports network. Its five-year, $2.6 billion deal for IPL broadcasting rights expires in 2022 and a fierce battle for the next round of rights will ensue. Each franchise is allowed a total purse of $12 million, from which the cost of retentions has been deducted prior to the auction. The range of fees paid for retained players was between 4 and 16 Crore ($543,000 to $2.1 million).

As in previous years, franchise teams are allowed a maximum of 25 players. Thus, a maximum of 250 players will be recruited. Given that 33 have already been retained, competition will be fierce for the remaining 217 places, on which a ceiling of 70 overseas players is placed. Bidders have to juggle funds available with the need to obtain quality and balance within their squad. There are three high-price player categories, ranging from a 2-Crore base at which bidding starts, with 48 players listed, followed by 1.5 Crore, with 20 cricketers, and 1 Crore, with 34. The lowest base price is 0.2 Crore.

In the dynamic world of the IPL, a further twist occurred on Jan. 11, when the withdrawal of Chinese mobile manufacturing company Vivo as the official title sponsor was announced by the IPL’s Governing Council. 

The Tata Group will replace Vivo, which will transfer its title rights to Tata. Various explanations have been aired for its request to withdraw. One relates to anti-Chinese sentiment within India, another to poor returns on investment and a third relates to a reported probe into alleged tax evasion and manipulated finances.

Vivo acquired the IPL title sponsorship in 2018 in a five-year deal for $297 million. In 2020, Vivo paused its deal for a year owing to the Indo-China diplomatic standoff, with Dream 11 standing in. Media reports suggest that Tata will pay $90 million, for the two-year sponsorship deal, whilst Vivo will pay 454 Crore for contract termination. With these deals, the BCCI will end up earning $151 million over 2022 and 2023, a windfall for an already bloated purse.

The move by Tata, which has just acquired Air India, may be regarded as evidence of its strategy to shift away from its industrial-based legacy brand towards a consumer-centric organisation, focused on future-facing digital businesses. It is seeking to increase consumer awareness, especially among younger consumers. Investing in the IPL will facilitate different opportunities for its marketing communications campaigns.

The partnership between Tata and the IPL, branded Tata IPL, links two of India’s most powerful brands. In 2020, the brand value of Tata was estimated to be over $20 billion, while the brand value of the IPL was estimated at $5.3 billion by financial consultancy Duff and Phelps in 2018.

There seems to be no end to the possibilities for IPL growth. It is embraced by Indians, by spectators and viewers, players, coaches, advertisers, sponsors and media organizations. The change of lead sponsor and upcoming auction may serve to take some attention away from criticism of the BCCI’s handling of an on-going furore over its men’s national team captaincy.

As reported two weeks ago, Virat Kohli, its previous captain in all formats, resigned as Test captain after a 2-1 series defeat by South Africa. In the three-match T20 series which followed, India, under a stand-in captain, was beaten 3-0. Contradictory statements have been made by Kohli and BCCI members, including its president, about the real chain of events which led to the end of his tenure. India’s transition from Kohli’s reign to a new leadership team, under which Kohli will play, has not started well. Currently, the BCCI’s financial dominance of cricket — and the power that comes with it — is not being matched by the performances on the field that it so craves.