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When was IPL Started? – The Story Behind

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Buvanesh Thiraviam

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May 17, 2024

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April 18, 2008, is a significant date in Indian cricket history that marked the beginning of a tectonic shift in how cricket is played and consumed today. 

Can you guess what happened on that day? 

That day saw the emergence of the Indian Premier League (IPL), which skyrocketed the appeal of T20 cricket across the globe. Now, the league is a flag-bearer for all the franchise-based T20 tournaments in the world.

Now, you must be wondering how and when the IPL started.

In this article, we’ll delve into the story behind the birth of the IPL.

The IPL Origin Story

Even though the IPL started in 2008, the foundation for establishing a cricket league in India was laid back in the 1990s. Such an enormous idea was brewing in the mind of an Indian businessman who was a fan of the gentleman’s game.

He is none other than Lalit Modi. You must have heard his name while discussing about the IPL. He was the visionary behind the birth of the biggest T20 league in the world.

In the 1980s, Modi went to Duke University in the USA for his graduation. During his days in the USA, Modi came across popular American sports leagues like the National Basketball Association (NBA). 

He got inspired by it and wanted to replicate the same in India, but for cricket. Once he was back from the USA, he indulged in learning the business aspect of cricket and discovered that there was a huge potential to start a cricket league.

Somewhere in 1996, Modi went to then BCCI chief Madhavrao Scindia with the proposal of starting the Indian Cricket League. The league was based on the 50-over format, with 7-8 teams from the country participating in it.

It was a revolutionary attempt at commercialising cricket in the late 20th century. The idea, though, couldn’t garner much interest from the BCCI, and Modi had to put the league on the back burner.

However, he didn’t give up on starting a cricket league. He kept on pushing the idea to the BCCI, but the board wanted a larger say in the proceedings, which Modi was completely against.

Soon, he started gaining prominence in the BCCI, and by 2007, he was the vice president of the board. Now he had the power to make things work in his favour. Despite that, nothing came off easy. 

By that time, the world had seen the emergence of T20 cricket, a fast-paced version that was tailor-made for launching a cricket league. The BCCI, as usual, were reluctant about the new format.

But one man smelled the potential T20 cricket possessed and wanted to cash in on it immediately. Here comes Subhash Chandra, the owner of Essel Group (Zee TV), into the picture.

In 2007, he launched a privately owned cricket tournament — the Indian Cricket League (ICL). The league was by the same name that Modi wanted to start the ODI league in 1996.

This sent alarms blazing in the BCCI as someone was trying to challenge the monopoly of the board in the country. To eliminate the threat, Modi started convincing the board members to start their own league.

He was successful in bringing the BCCI, players, national boards, and the ICC on board. Modi then set the ball rolling by formally launching the Indian Premier League (IPL) in September 2007.

He got the launch timing right, as at that time the first-ever T20 World Cup was happening in South Africa. After a few days, India emerged victorious in the World Cup, setting a perfect stage for the IPL.

Modi had limited time in his hands to get the extravaganza off the floor. He started by sorting out the schedule of the league and followed it by getting the broadcasters on the board.

Once that was done, the attention shifted towards auctioning the rights for the 8 teams. Many big businesses and celebrities from India tried their luck to get hold of a franchise.

The team auction fetched $730 million for the BCCI, a sum that was almost unheard of in cricketing circles back then. The player auction followed soon, with players getting sold for unimaginable bids.

Now, everything was ready, from teams to players to broadcasters and the board. It was time for action, and the league got off to a brilliant start on April 18, 2008.

The inaugural match saw Royal Challengers Bangalore (now Bengaluru) take on Kolkata Knight Riders in Bengaluru. KKR’s Brendon McCullum set the league on fire with his rollicking 158-run knock — the perfect ingredient the IPL needed to get off to a blazing start.

Now, cut to 2024, and the IPL has become the buzzing property in the cricketing landscape. A man’s dream completely revolutionised the gentleman’s game.

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