Having salvaged the Covid-stricken Indian Premier League (IPL) last year as well as this year, UAE has also become the cynosure of cricketing eyes for making the T20 World Cup a resounding success.
And Boria Majumdar, India’s renowned cricket historian and author, believes this country will continue to play a major role in cricket.
Majumdar, who co-authored Sachin Tendulkar’s autobiography, Playing it My Way, believes BCCI, the world’s richest cricket board, knows UAE’s potential as an IPL venue could be huge even after the world brings an end to the Covid menace.
“What is the IPL? Eventually, how does the IPL grow? The IPL has to seek newer markets,” Majumdar, who is commentating on the T20 World Cup for Talk 100.3 FM, told Khaleej Times.
“This part of the world is three hours from Mumbai. So if you can go and play matches in Raipur from Delhi, why can't you go play matches in Dubai? Because the consumption here is massive. Now if you have two teams who have two of their home games here, you are actually nurturing a market that has enormous possibilities. So I think the UAE will have a strategic role.”
Being home to two of the world’s best airlines, Emirates and Etihad, is a major advantage for UAE.
“The BCCI will also realise that from the standpoint of IPL’s valuation as a global sports property, this is the hub of the world, inbound traffic, outbound traffic, you'll have it all here,” Majumdar said.
“So, in terms of the corporatization of the IPL, scaling it up commercially, this part of the world does have a major role. You have the best facilities in terms of stadiums, hotels and flight connections. I will be very surprised if this market isn't tapped into in the next few years.”
The UAE, according to Majumdar, even surpassed Japan as a sporting host in the post-Covid era.
“I was earlier in Japan for the Tokyo Olympics. I've been in my bubble life there and I have been bubble life here. I have to say, starting with the airport, the whole experience in UAE was much simpler,” he said.
“That may be because of the language as well because in Japan language was a serious problem (initially). But here starting with the airport, getting the RT-PCR test done in the hotel, everything has been very smooth. I've been very impressed with what I have seen.”
The Kolkata-born cricket historian then revealed the secret to the success of Talk 100.3 FM, the sports and business radio station which was launched by Channel 2 Group Corporation and Fun Asia Network.
“I have been involved since the time this station was planned and they had taken my inputs. So I said, ‘if you want to do talk, emphasise on sports because it allows us plenty of talking points and the moment you have rights and you're able to do live sport, it makes a fundamental difference,” said Majumdar, who has shared the commentary box here with Clive Lloyd, Farokh Engineer, Kapil Dev and Zaheer Abbas.
“From what I understand, they have 17 sponsors, so they have exceeded their expectations in terms of sales. The feedback that we have been given from the audience is spectacular. They have already contacted me for eight events next year. Now you wouldn't do that unless you are sure of it.
“I think if they put in the professional rigour, this can become a signature piece in terms of cricket consumption. And I hope to play a strategic role in it and shape it. We will see how things evolve.”
Finally, Majumdar echoed the sentiments of marquee names like Chris Gayle and Faf du Plessis who are passionately backing T10, cricket’s shortest format, to take the sport into the Olympics.
“I am with them on this because I know for a fact that ICC is working to get cricket into Los Angeles (2028 Olympics). T10 is definitely a format that can be looked at because at the Olympic Games if you finish a format within two hours, it’s always preferable for broadcast timings,” said Majumdar, who did his PhD on the social history of Indian cricket.
“If cricket does make it to the Olympics, it will be a significant step forward. You know T20 is taking close to four hours. So the best format could well be T10. It’s tailor-made for Olympics. It’s a format that has a future.”
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