Saturday, June 20, 2015

Red Chillies and Trinidad & Tobago – What’s the deal?

T20 is the in-thing. The top players are much sought after across the Cricket playing nations. Some of these top players have happily ended their commitments towards their respective national team in order to focus on T20. The fans love the hustle and bustle of “rapid-fire” version of Cricket. There’s non-stop entertainment, loud music, dancing, cheer-leaders and – most of all – umpteen sixes! So, if you are a Cricketer, this is one area you need to excel to rake in the moolah and big bucks. For many, this format has also opened up opportunities in the ODI and test version which, without T20, would have been a distant possibility. For the owners, this is one business idea which they can utilize to diversify and market their brand to a larger audience. For the ground-owners, this is another revenue stream and a significant one too. For the politicians, this is... Oops, let’s not traverse this road (sic).

So, it comes as no surprise that Kolkata Knight Riders’ owner Red Chillies Entertainment decided to buy a West Indian local T20 team, Trinidad & Tobago. It’s a business deal that has money and future profits written all over it. West Indies Cricket Board also stands to gain as popular public figures invest in their T20 teams. Shahrukh Khan is not the first celebrity to invest in a T20 team in West Indies. Hollywood stars Mark Wahlberg bought Barbados team and Gerard Butler bought Jamaican team. 

Red Chillies Entertainment buys Trinidad & Tobago T20 West Indies team

What’s in it for all stakeholders?
  • Red Chillies Entertainment – One word, diversification. Red Chillies are into movie production, allied industries in relation to movies, Cricket team in IPL and now another cricket team in West Indies. They are simply hedging their bets and investing in long term profits from T20 format. Shahrukh Khan owning and producing his own movies is always a win-win situation for the group. This deal also gives Shahrukh Khan an entry into West Indies possibly to increase the fan base for his movies. A fan of one venture of a corporate biggie will have a natural inclination to support the owners’ other ventures. It’s a bold decision, but will reap rewards in the medium to long term.
  • West Indies Cricket – Any investment of this kind in a country is always beneficial for that country. West Indies Cricket in general only stands to gain from such an investment. This means there’s a corporate house ready to invest in the ‘unofficial’ hub of T20 Cricketers. West Indies Cricketers are one of the reason why IPL has succeeded the way it has. Can you imagine Mumbai without Pollard and Simmons, Kolkata without Narine and Bangalore without Gayle. This business deal will possibly unearth more such gems from the T20 production headquarters, which is the Caribbean. And they are likely to get more spotlight now with CPL (Caribbean Premier league) now on global map. 
  • Kolkata Knight Riders – This is a long shot, but I think Kolkata will be the eventual gainers from such a deal. Here’s how. The core team that handles Cricketing activities for Kolkata team are more likely to be a part of the Trinidad and Tobago team too. Don’t you think they will have direct access to raw talents from Trinidadian origins? Any sports team needs to have the right balance of top players and future prospects (at relatively lower price, I might add). Any player who has a breakout season can then directly be poached by Kolkata and the transaction will be relatively smooth since both the buyer and the seller are the same. Add to that the fact that IPL and CPL don’t happen at the same time, and the T20 contracts are usually renewed on a yearly basis. Such a situation will allow for frequent shuffling of players from one team to other team under the same ownership umbrella. Kolkata and T&T can not only “share best practices” but also “best players”.
  • IPL – IPL is not a direct stakeholder, definitely not at this point in time. But I feel IPL will stand to benefit from this deal in the long term. Any idea evolves over time. IPL as a concept is fantastic primarily because it has copied been inspired from the most successful English Premier League / European Football leagues. So, it’s only natural for IPL to adopt more features from the Football leagues, one of which is the loan system. Don’t be surprised if players from one team are loaned to another team in a different country. This is especially possible when the owners of both the teams are same. Also, raw and young T20 specialists from West Indies may now move to the “more lucrative” IPL. 

I see this as the next step in the evolution of T20 league. Expect more corporates to join the bandwagon and own a T20 team in different countries. Australia, New Zealand, England and Sri Lanka could be the next destinations. The existing IPL team owners or their competitors or the bidders who lost out on IPL teams are more likely to invest.

But then, all the above points are likely to change if (and it’s a big IF) the rumors of a rival Cricket league becomes a reality. Remember Zee group? 

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