Modi's influence on IPL comparable to Packer's on World Series Cricket

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Dharamsala, Mar.27 (ANI): Neil Maxwell, an Australian player-manager and former chief executive of the IPL franchise Kings XI Punjab, says the credit for the Indian Premier League's success must go to Lalit Modi, its chairman and driving force.

He believes Modi's influence can be compared to Kerry Packer's hold on the breakaway World Series Cricket experiment, which revolutionized the game in the late 1970s.

But, unlike Packer, Modi is not running a rebel competition.

The IPL is an initiative of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, of which Modi is the vice-chairman. As a result, the financial might and the monopoly power of India's cricket establishment has been behind the IPL.

"Lalit Modi had a vision that he has dragged a lot of people along on with him," Maxwell tells the Sydney Morning Herald.

"Lalit has amazing confidence and vision and he's looking to take on the sporting world. With a supporter base as passionate and as big as India's he's got an amazing platform on which to do that."

Modi, the scion of a leading Indian business family, says his ambition is to make the IPL the world's No. 1 sporting league.

Modi says this year's robust TV ratings are a "testimony to the fact that the IPL is only set to grow bigger and better from here."

The sale of two new team franchises on Sunday entrenched the IPL's reputation as a money spinner. The buyers shelled out a combined total of 703 million dollars for teams in the cities of Pune and Kochi that will join the competition next year.

The huge prices are explained by India's mania for its home-grown Twenty20 tournament.

The buzz of choppers over Mumbai when IPL games are played there is a testament to its pulling power.

In the hours before the season's first game the city's airspace was jammed as helicopters ferried more than 150 moguls and movie stars from the clogged streets of southern Mumbai to the packed venue on city's outskirts.

Mumbai's helicopter charter services can look forward to extra demand until the end of the competition late next month.

In the capital, New Delhi, cafes have installed big TVs so customers can keep track of IPL matches.

Some of the city's most popular restaurants are staging special IPL theme events with names like Century Menu and Hat Trick at 666.

For three years running, the IPL has altered India's television viewing patterns. General entertainment shows that normally top the ratings, like soap operas and reality programs, have been shunned for the nightly IPL matches.

Each night since the season started the IPL has been India's most watched program, often attracting 50 per cent more viewers than the top-rating programs at other times of the year.

So far this year the IPL has attracted more viewers than ever.

The first three matches of this season was watched by 37.1 million people, 41 per cent higher than the number of viewers in the inaugural season, according to the ratings firm TAM Media Research.

More than 5 million tuned into the March 12 season opener on YouTube, which has an exclusive agreement with the league.

The tournament's own website had more than 15 million hits that night. The IPL's estimated value has more than doubled in the past year, to 4.13 billion dollars from 2.01 billion dollars, according to the research firm Brand Finance.

That ranks the IPL among the world's 200 most valuable brands.

The IPL's popularity has made it a magnet for sponsors and advertisers. The number of brands associated with the league has jumped from 40 in the first year to 100.

Set Max, the IPL broadcaster owned by Sony, had reportedly sold 80 per cent of its advertising inventory before this season had started.

The IPL is constantly on the front pages of India's newspapers, some of which have increased space on their sports pages to coverage of the league. (ANI)

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