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‘Need draft system for IPL instead of auctions’

Venky Mysore,MD and COO of reigning IPL champs Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and CEO of Red Chillies Entertainment,talks about the turnaround at the SRK-owned franchise and the myths surrounding the cash-rich league.

P VAIDYANATHAN IYER:You have spent 25 years in the financial industry. How did the move to KKR happen?

Venky Mysore:I played for Madras University and was selected for Tamil Nadu Ranji team. Around the same time I went to the US for MBA. My passion for cricket did not die,though. I knew KKR co-owner Jay Mehta professionally and socially,as we were part of Young Presidents Organisation.

Once we started talking cricket,this was after three years of IPL. He told me they were looking to professionalise the team by getting a CEO. One thing led to another and before I could realise what was happening,I was sitting with Shah Rukh Khan at his house. Shah Rukh heard my ideas and the next thing he said was,‘I am designing Venky’s office.’

BHARAT SUNDARESAN:What is the biggest challenge in the franchise model in cricket?

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We’ve all grown up supporting the national team. So when you suddenly say I am a Kolkata supporter,it becomes difficult to relate. The challenge is to make it less about players and more about the franchise. It’s about Team KKR. Players will come and go,that’s the nature of IPL. This is the reason our team doesn’t have a ‘superstar’.

P V IYER:Do the owners keep away from team operations?

I believe in allowing people to do things they are good at. Luckily,Shah Rukh and Jay share the opinion. We were the only team at the 2011 auction that was represented by the management,the owners weren’t there.

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P V IYER:Considering that Shah Rukh has such a pull,how much did you want him to be associated with day-to-day functioning?

When I presented my business plan,I said to him as an outsider KKR was too much SRK-centric. What I wanted to do is to draw a line,to keep him in the background. It was necessary to separate the two brands. He welcomed the idea and I changed the brand portfolio.

BS:What’s your view on the salary cap of $12.5 million?

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I have been suggesting reduction in the cap for quite some time now. If you keep it at $5 million,people will spend only that much and at $12.5 million,that much. Last auction,the cap was $12.5 million at a time when the exchange rate had gone up from Rs 35 to Rs 55. What are we doing here?

SMITA NAIR:Are player confrontations,like the one between Kohli and Gambhir,staged to attract eyeballs?

No. In sports such as ice hockey,fights between players are staged,not in cricket.

MIHIR VASAVDA:Do you think controversies have hit IPL image?

It does. But I don’t know how much of it is avoidable.

M V:Does it worry you as a stakeholder?

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It does. At the end of the day,we are all a part of the eco-system that is the league. In the insurance industry,we used to say we don’t want to see a company fail because if one goes down the credibility of the entire industry goes down. Same is true of IPL. We don’t want a franchise to fail because it raises doubts.

SHIVANI NAIK:IPL is considered recession-free. Has it actually been a breeze for all franchises?

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I don’t believe it’s recession-free. A large part of our business is based on sponsorships and having run large businesses,I can tell you when times are not good,the first budget that gets cut is marketing. When that happens,sponsorships go down. Maybe,because the broadcast deal was done for 10 years,there was predictability in revenues.

SAGNIK CHOWDHURY:How much of research goes into player trading and buying?

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There is a group doing research on our turnaround and they’ve called it the ‘Moneyball’ story. Many players we picked are what I call the ‘Moneyball’ players because of the homework we did on them. We have a system based on scouts and analysts. We have developed a model to study performance and try and catch them before (other teams). Shakib al Hasan is an example. He is an all-rounder we got for $300,000. But to my mind,I didn’t pay $300,000; I paid $150,000 for a bowler and $150,000 for a batsman. He is a top player in this form of the game. We like to spend time and energy on these kinds of players. You can’t spend millions of dollars on one player and hope to sustain.

S N:Will KKR aggressively go for someone like Virat Kohli or M S Dhoni in the next auction?

I doubt it. I have an auction philosophy and a lot of people who hear our story say that’s the reason for our success. I am unemotional about names. I am interested in a pool of players and I have a value assigned to that. I hit that number and if I don’t get that player for that amount,it’s ok.

B S:Is having auctions every three years detrimental to a team’s fan base?

In some ways it is. But I think it is important to do that to maintain competitiveness of the league.

DEVENDRA PANDEY:Is there an alternative to auctions?

I’d like to see a draft system. Draft system is quite popular in the US. If you end up at the bottom of the league,you get the first pick. It helps to keep the balance of the team instead of auctions that have challenges such as continuity. I’d also like to see best-of-three finals.

S N:How much does winning the league matter when you are anyway earning a lot of money?

A lot. Weightage to winning by public is high. One thing you realise as a franchise after you’ve won is it’s a very difficult thing to do. When the league matures,it’s less important for business. Fans are there to support you whether you win or lose as long as you give 100 per cent.

P V IYER:Would you like to list your company in future?

Possibly. But it’s not a driver; it has to be for the right reasons. I have got a different plan altogether,not dissimilar to listings but not exactly that as well. I am more a fan of strategic relationship.

(Transcribed by Mihir Vasavda)

First published on: 22-04-2013 at 03:57 IST
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