EXCLUSIVE: KKR CEO determined to take franchise global

Peter Miller 24/06/2015
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CEO Venky Mysore plans to bring the KKR brand beyond its own continent.

Venky Mysore, the CEO of the Kolkata Knight Riders, is in St Lucia to watch the West Indies franchise that his company has just purchased. The Trinidad & Tobago Red Steel are now part of the same family as the Indian Premier League club, one of the most successful in the competition’s history.

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While there was a lose affiliation between the Rajasthan Royals and English county Hampshire back in 2010, which saw the teams share names and logos, this is the first time that an IPL franchise has invested so heavily in a rival league. According to Mysore, the investment in Caribbean cricket was based on the business model created at KKR which always planned to expand the brand beyond its own continent.

“The origins of this go back to when I started managing KKR five years ago and we started thinking about what our vision is,” Mysore exclusively told Sport360. “And the vision was always first get our model right in India and then, like any other business, you want to scale it up. One of the ways you can do it is to globalise.

“The first thing was to build a robust model and then be confident that we can replicate that in another part of the world. So we were always keeping an eye open for opportunities and when this came along it was the absolute right fit for us. One of the benefits of this type of decision is that you also have an opportunity to get into the North American market.”

The golden goose that is cricket in America has long attracted cricket administrator’s eyes, and Mysore is clear that the idea of breaking the US would be a substantial ancillary benefit of investing in the Red Steel. Mysore isn’t sure that the States are ready for a CPL franchise just yet, but believes there is a possibility of its games taking place there in the future.

“I don’t know how a team based in America would work. But at least some of the discussions they have had with us is about at least some of the teams going and playing at least a couple of games there, which would be a little bit more meaningful because every team gets to go and play a couple of games. That gives the advantage of eight to ten games there a season, or maybe a half a dozen games.

“What we would have to do then is assess the interest levels. Just by how the US reacts to IPL games, to online streaming, it is a huge market for that.”

The Caribbean Premier League is only a stepping stone for KKR and it is Mysore’s ambition to spread the franchise all over the globe. Interest is already there from other leagues, spawned after seeing the success of the IPL, and Mysore has already been approached by the Big Bash in Australia.

“We would absolutely consider another franchise. In fact we had discussions with the Big Bash when it first started. They came and met with us but were just not ready for us to participate the way we do here or the way we do in the IPL.

“The IPL is a private enterprise and people are putting serious money into the business. We have to be able to have the freedom to build our business model and obviously cricket is a big part of it.

“Every single league that pops up, somehow the proposal always seems to end up on our desks. But not every one of the proposals seems to match our strategy imperatives. So this one certainly did, so let’s see which will be the next one.”

It seems that a name change is inevitable for the Trinidadian side, with a commonality of branding between the West Indian side and its sister side in India.  

“For this to be meaningful we would certainly want some kind of common branding, common colours. We have already been giving that some thought and I have been validating that through meeting people in Trinidad.

“I think maybe I have come up with an idea right now. I think one way or another it is going to called something Knight Riders, ‘Trinidad & Tobago Knight Riders’ or ‘Trinidad Knight Riders’, there is a colloquial that is used very affectionately – ‘Trinbago’. “

While branding is an obvious, necessary start to proceedings, the sure fire way to enhance CPL interest and the league’s reputation is to bring it to the Indian market. All of cricket’s wealth stems from the world’s largest democracy and KKR have insider knowledge that could not only benefit their own investment but also the league.

The real challenge they face is the timing of the matches. The CPL schedules its matches for the local audience with late afternoon and evening start times the norm. With India nine and a half hours ahead of the Caribbean that means games are on in the middle of the night. Mysore, however, believes this isn’t as big an issue as it first seems.

“Within reasons yes, the timing of matches isn’t an issue. I was talking to some of the organisers here and saying an 8pm game works reasonably well in India because it is still 5.30am. And when India goes and plays Australia we wake up at 5.30am to watch that game. But you have to build a fan base for that. If you do that then viewership will go up.

“A 12noon game works brilliantly because it is 9.30pm in India, but a 12noon game might not work so well for fans here. There is a bit of a balance to be had. I would say at the moment 8pm is probably the best bet.”

Another way to pique interest in the sub-continent is to have Indian players appearing in the tournament. Currently, the BCCI will not allow their players to appear in any T20 league other than their own. It is a stance that Mysore is keen to change.

“You have six teams and potentially you might have six [Indian] players playing, which is not a lot. I think there is some kind of meaningful dialogue that can happen. We will be happy to facilitate that.

West Indies' stars Dwayne Bravo, Darren Sammy and Kieron Pollard.

“We understand that the BCCI have their own concerns about it. I think [CPL] is working brilliantly right now, there are seven strong West Indian players and then there are four foreigners like we do in the IPL, so I think it will be a great opportunity for some of the emerging Indians to have an opportunity to come and hone their skills.”

The reality of the IPL is that it is only getting bigger. With the finances involved, it has already driven wedges between cricketers and their national teams, none more so than in the West Indies. Contract wrangling between the WICB and its stars has the likes of Chris Gayle, Sunil Narine, Dwayne Bravo, Darren Sammy and Kieron Pollard all commit to the IPL rather than don the infamous maroon of their respective home islands.

 “I hope that a window for the IPL becomes a reality because that allows all countries and all players to participate. It is always a bit frustrating when you plan a certain way and then other series comes up. When Bangladesh decided to play Zimbabwe we lost Shakib al Hassan who was such an integral part to our team so the dynamics of the team and selection change. So yes, we would love to have a clear window.”

Perhaps a compromise can be reached, in fact Mysore says that the current IPL period is far from perfect. Maybe a deal where the tournament is moved to a time between January and March when there is less international cricket would work.

“I don’t think it is so much to do with the Indian market, in fact it is a very hot period of time. It is the peak summer and in April kids are going through school exams. In an ideal world you want a different window. But this was the window that was created based on all countries agreeing on their calendar on the Future Tours Programme, but still it is not absolute. There are quite a few interruptions that happen.”

For now, the IPL will continue in its current spot in the calendar, exerting its immense power across cricket’s domestic and international landscape. Where this association with the CPL takes things is anyone’s guess, but the ambition of Mysore to bring unity to the various T20 leagues around the world may well benefit the game. If his ambition and willingness to look beyond the IPL can infiltrate the rest of the league, then only good can come of this deal for the owners, organisers, cricketers, broadcasters and international schedules.

What is for certain is this may be the first deal of this kind, but it will not be the last. 

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#360LIVE: Bangladesh vs India - Third ODI

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Mustafizur Rahman has been the star player for Bangladesh so far.

Keep up-to-date with all the action from Dhaka as Bangladesh bid to whitewash India in the third and final ODI of the series LIVE right here with Sport360.com.

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Stung by their first-ever series defeat against Bangladesh, underfire India will look to salvage some pride and prevent the hosts from registering a rare clean sweep when they go into this match.

Bangladesh, on the other hand, have been brilliant on all counts and will be keen to cement their place at the top table of international ODI cricket with a whitewash.

Join the conversation and debate around the match across social media by using #360LIVE.

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#360View: MS Dhoni losing his grip on India ODI team

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Dhoni said that if success is guaranteed without him, then he will quit.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni is batting on a sticky wicket these days following the series loss against Bangladesh and he appears to be losing grip over a format of the game that he once ruled.

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Dhoni has overseen embarrassing defeats in the past, the 4-0 losses against England and Australia in away series four years ago being his lowest phase as Test captain.

He survived that but it did little to improve India’s away Test record as they crashed to six more defeats until his sudden retirement in Australia last year.

A similar story appears to be unfolding now with the shocking results in Bangladesh, easily Dhoni’s worst as captain. The 34-year-old could always hide behind those Test defeats citing India’s poor away record and that it came against strong teams.

There is no such cover in the latest setback as India were humbled by a team that was placed seven places lower in the 12-team world ranking table.

While Bangladesh improved their position to No7 after the stunning victories, India clung on to the No2 spot (114 points) with No3 New Zealand and No4 South Africa (both on 112 points) breathing down their neck.

There is no doubt that Bangladesh are on an upward swing but what rankles most is that the Indians did little to counter that apart from turning up for the games.

Their much-famed batting line-up fared miserably, the pace bowling was pedestrian and their body language was certainly not that of a World No2 with the margin of defeats – 79 runs and six wickets – highlighting it further.

Dhoni defended his captaincy saying that if success is guaranteed with him stepping down, then he is willing to quit. Yesterday, off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin too made a stirring defence of the captain saying that Dhoni has been a fantastic leader and he is “willing to die” for him on the field.

It goes without saying that Dhoni remains the greatest ever Indian captain with the 2007 World Twenty20 and 2011World Cup the standout jewels in his much decorated cap.

But all that was in the past and the present is not looking all that rosy as he faces the biggest leadership crisis in the twilight of his career.

A captain is as good as his team, but if he cannot get the desired results then the voices seeking change are only going to get louder. Besides, Dhoni’s style is becoming a little predictable and it looks like he has nothing new to offer. Also, his moves – be it a bowling change or a field placement – that once fetched him rich dividends appear out of sync now. 

The only ray of hope for Dhoni to salvage something out of this disaster is to win the final one-dayer of the three-match series against Bangladesh today by a thumping margin.

If he doesn’t then India will have to look for a new captain to lead them in limited-overs cricket including the World Twenty20 at home next year. Thankfully, India need not look too far as Virat Kohli, already handed the reins of the Test team, is waiting in the wings to take charge.

However, Dhoni, still has a lot to offer as a player, and he can continue to play with more freedom as a wicketkeeper-batsman. Life has indeed come a full circle for Dhoni as, ironically, the lowest point of his career comes against the same opposition that he made his one-day international debut.

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