Raising the T10 bar by cutting out negativity
SHAJI UL MULK
T10 League chairman Shaji Ul Mulk is targeting more matches and Indian players in 2019 to take the league to the next level.
The second edition in Sharjah saw the tournament increase in size, going up to eight teams playing across 12 days from the first edition where six teams clashed over four days.
The presence of eight Indian players, including well known names like Zaheer Khan and RP Singh, and the hiring of Indian Premier League honcho Arvinder Singh, energised the league.
The league had received negative publicity following the resignation of Pakistan Super League franchise owner Salman Iqbal as president of T10 and issues surrounding participation of contracted Pakistan players, along with financial impropriety charges on its then sponsor Heera Group.
Also, a court verdict in Pakistan ordering a change to the team name of T10 outfit Karachians for being phonetically similar to that of PSL team Karachi Kings, owned by Iqbal, forced a last-minute alteration to the name Sindhis.
But after the successful conclusion of the second edition of the tournament, Shaji is looking at consolidation in 2019 but added there is always scope for more matches and more Indian names.
“We would like to consolidate. We have a clean slot next year – middle of October, early November. We will be working with the Afghanistan Cricket Board to ensure our cricket doesn’t clash (with the Afghanistan Premier Legaue). There isn’t much cricket happening in those days, which means more international players of even higher quality coming,” Shaji told Sport360°.
“Being the first league outside the IPL to have Indian players is a huge achievement. And we have done that. The Indian market is warming up to T10. These factors have given a shot in the arm to the property. Our strategy is clear – to get more Indian players next year.”
Having eight Indian players, even if retired, is no mean feat as no other tournament outside the IPL boasts such numbers. Shaji said landing players like Zaheer was a major coup.
He said: “Eight Indian players was a brilliant coup by our management, particularly Arvinder and (Northern Warriors coach and former India allrounder) Robin Singh. They played a big role in convincing Indian players. Praveen Kumar retired for T10 as he was a current cricketer. All Indian players performed brilliantly. Munaf Patel was taking wickets, RP Singh as well. Pravin Tambe took a five wicket haul including a hat-trick.
“Having Indian players was a real shot in the arm, no doubt about it. It makes perfect commercial sense. It is common knowledge that 85 per cent of world cricket revenue comes from India. That’s where any successful cricket league would want to have a share.”
Shaji added that while there is temptation to bringing in more teams, he is happy with the numbers in hand. “We will like to stay with eight teams for now, it’s a good combination. We might increase the number of games from 29 to 34. We are talking to different boards to have another T10 in one more country. Or even play a few existing T10 games in neighbouring countries,” he explained.
Shaji credited a new chief operating officer in Arvinder for streamlining the functioning of the league which has resulted in heightened commercial interest from potential investors after the league basically tripled in size after the addition of two more teams – Sindhis and Northern Warriors.
“Not just the logistics, but the whole scope of work tripled for us. Players had to be accommodated for 12 days, multiple matches had to be scheduled,” he added.
“Getting Arvinder on board as chief operating officer made a big difference. He has 10 years of IPL experience running teams like Kings XI Punjab and Gujarat Lions. He marshalled the whole cricketing affairs. Everyone could see how well the tournament was organised.
“Valuations have gone up. We have received at least six enquiries for buying shares in existing teams or buying news teams. It shows us the demand. It’s a valuation game more than immediate profit and loss analysis.”
The negative news cycle surrounding Iqbal’s exit and controversy over earlier title sponsor Heera Group didn’t deter the T10 boss. A new sponsor was found in the Ghalia Group and things fell into place.
According to Shaji, it was just a short cycle of negative news from one section in Pakistan.
He said: “We stuck to the truth. The negative campaign was one man’s story. It was his (Iqbal) vested interest as he tried to put false claims on the league. And we took a professional approach and let our legal team handle that.
“When Iqbal resigned, he was demanding shares from us. It was a commercial issue. When that issue was not concluded to his satisfaction, he went into a negative campaign thinking that since he has media power (as owner of ARY media group) he can rally news around it. Luckily for us, media was fair. It ended up just one channel talking negatively and a hundred other segments talking of the T10 tournament.
“Title sponsors was an overplayed issue. Heera Group were sponsors last year. The minute report came from India about investigations into Heera Group, we took a decision we will not be connected with a ‘negative’ firm. We quickly got on board with a much more powerful group – Ghalia Group, who have a better commercial advantage.
“The issues were overplayed. It was just a Pakistan territory-based issue. But T10 League is a global league, it’s not just south Asian. The whole world was involved. One territorial noise was not as big as some found it to be.”
It was a tense few months for the T10 after a deluge of controversies. But as the dust settles, the tournament can look forward to another successful season.
All smiles: T10 League chairman Shaji Ul Mulk.