T10 League chairman Shaji Ul Mulk is proud to have overcome unfavourable news from ‘one negative territory’ in Pakistan and deliver a successful second edition of the tournament.
A few months back, the T10 League was in the news for all the wrong reasons. It’s erstwhile president Salman Iqbal resigned in September citing lack of transparency in the functioning of the tournament. Also, a court verdict in Pakistan ordering changes to 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.
Then there was the case of the tournament sponsor Heera Group being under investigation in India for an alleged Ponzi scheme.
Moreover, the inaugural edition of the T10 League had a heavy Pakistan presence with the cream of contracted players participating in it. This time, Pakistan’s top players were involved in a home series against New Zealand and following the issues with Iqbal, who had been mainly responsible for bringing in current Pakistan stars to the tournament, the tournament had to make do without the main stars of the Men in Green.
However, two key developments helped T10 up the star quotient. For the first time, eight well-known Indian players got associated with the league which included the likes of recently retired fast bowlers Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel and Praveen Kumar.
Also, Arvinder Singh, who worked with Indian Premier League outfits Kings XI Punjab and Gujarat Lions for close to a decade, was brought on board as Chief Operating Officer of the T10 League.
With the altered landscape, a bigger roster of eight teams playing over 12 days instead of the inaugural edition that saw six teams clashing over four days, and heavy Indian presence, the second edition of the T10 League – armed with approval from the world body ICC – kicked off and much to Shaji’s delight, went of better than expected.
“The experience was fantastic. Everything that we targeted, we have overachieved. The crowd, sponsors, player satisfaction, ICC involvement, media hype, quality of cricket… everything came into place very well. Very pleased we were able to execute such a large event after we tripled the size of the tournament,” Shaji told Sport360.
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 the commercial 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. Sponsors come and go. 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.”
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 and the league will concentrate on having more Indian players in the future.
He said: “Eight Indian players was a brilliant coup by our management, particularly Arvinder and (Northern Warriors coach and former India all-rounder) 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 was taking wickets. 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 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. Our strategy is very clear – to get more Indian players next year.”
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