Lalit Modi Operandi – How the IPL Supremo Utilizes the Limelight
5 Things to Know About Lalit Modi…
- Lalit Kumar Modi is the Chairman and Commissioner of the Indian Premier League.
- He is Sports Illustrated India’s 2nd most influential person in Indian sport.
- 16th in Time Magazine’s ‘Best Sports Executives in the World 2008′.
- The man behind “the World’s Hottest Sports League” according to Forbes magazine.
- He is also an avid Twitter user.
But do not confuse his ‘tweets’ with the other celebrity’s mundane mumblings – @LalitKModi is another of Modi’s tricks to generate hype around the revolutionary league!
During last year’s Champions League, the broadcaster ESPN Star commissioned a poll during a game asking, “Is Lalit Modi the saviour of Indian cricket?” A resounding 82% of the public participants voted ‘yes’ in agreement. Modi is viewed as a hard-nosed and ruthless businessman, the ebulient face of the IPL and the pioneer of franchise cricket in one. And the output of his product, channelled through our television screens is carefully controlled for the most impressive impact, even interactive polls.
Again during the Champions League, Modi found himself quaffing drinks and chatting to dignitaries in the plush surroundings of the hospitality suites overlooking play. In the midst of the action, darting between businessmen, administrators and politicians he was the man of the moment. And there just happened to be a camera nearby to capture such scenes.
At halftime, Modi strode out on the pitch, the supremo busy in dialogue with a gaggle of followers hot on his heels. The camera was there again, relaying events. After cutting a swath 20 or so yards onto the field of play, Modi turned round back into the comfort of the suites, much to the bemusement of the crowd expecting to see the great man do a lap of honour and greet the crowd. Modi had little intention of inspecting the wicket, of touring the ground or waving to the masses. He had got his shot for the TV audience.
This is the Lalit Modi who is trailed by a live camera to capture the moments of his existence-the businessman, always in action, always busy, always the man in demand. Viewers of the IPL will be familiar with shots showing Modi tapping away at his laptop, speaking into a phone and simultaneously enjoying the spectacle, observing the odd delivery. Finishing on one phone, an assistant would hand over yet another handset. The producer would then cut to another camera just as Modi is handed his Blackberry, perhaps to update his Twitter.
‘Tweeting’ has been accepted as the de-facto method of communication between celebrities and their adoring fans. Lalit Modi uses his @LalitKModi account for exactly that, and more still. No doubt with the help of an assistant, he replies to questions, messages of support plus abuse through Twitter, but he also uses the micro-blogging site as a means to announce, to make statements and express his own qualms with the world. By means of Twitter he can post what he wants, reply to whom he wants and portray himself and his ideas in the fashion he sees fit. There are no awkward questions to dodge; they can simply be deleted in a click. It is Modi’s virtual press conference with a huge willing audience, literally at his fingertips.
Modi has already boycotted the Taj chain of hotels, mocked Ricky Ponting’s apprehension over security and blacklisted Chris Cairn’s involvement in the competition, all by Twitter. By far the most controversial ‘Tweet’ was Modi’s declaration of 2010’s Champions League fixture dates, coinciding with the English season. ‘Whats the IPL got to do with UK county championship?’ Modi nonchalantly replied when accused of disrespecting county cricket fans. He has not so much shown ‘disrespect’ for the counties, he just views them as a nonentity. English cricket is barely an obstacle for Modi’s ambitions in new markets and reaching places cricket has never gained a foothold before. But do not be fooled that a love of the game is his motivation. It is his capitalist spirit.
Modi recently said, with regards to new franchises in the IPL, in the pages The Times newspaper in the UK, “There is a football club, a very famous football club in the UK, very interested in bidding. Probably one of the most famous football clubs-that is all I can say. Probably top three. They are interested in taking a stake.” Immediately the speculation began, could it be Chelsea, Arsenal or Manchester United? Using his digital soapbox Modi Twittered, ruling out Chelsea, whilst Manchester United denied any involvement. Assumptions were made about Manchester City, considering their owner’s Middle-east base and considerable wealth. Modi knew it would cause a stir, it would guarantee more coverage, and generate debate among the football press and the coveted football market.
Modi’s hints, speculation and stirring gained further press, debate and coverage of the upcoming IPL3, as did the security situation and the failure to secure any Pakistani players, a constant flow of intrigue, debate, controversy and publicity. A ‘last minute’ deal with ITV to screen matches live in the UK depicts Modi as a hero for the UK’s cricket fans, and his confirmation of players arriving in India reassure his followers that they will indeed see their stars in India, with Modi the personal guarantor. And into the final week before the tournament, the emphasis is on building up the expectation of the spectacle. Deepika Padukone, UB40, Lionel Richie and an ‘ABBA Revival’ are ‘tweeted’ as opening ceremony guests.
Modi did not save Indian cricket. Indian cricket did not need a saviour to rescue it from a time of non-existent peril. Yet on the back of the 2007 T20 World Cup success Modi had the vision and foresight to synergise cricket, film, business and modern marketing to form India’s most comprehensive entertainment to date. In doing so, creating the perfect mix for India’s consumer market, and the advertisers who target the burgeoning middle class. In mixing sport along with the ethos of global capitalism urging growth, expansion and diversification, Modi will surely take T20 cricket to the new followers, to the United States and beyond.
With Lalit Kumar Modi, the networker, ruthless businessman, the jolly face of the IPL, the promise maker and deliverer at the helm, there is only one way to keep informed. On his terms, @LalitKModi.
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