Exclusive: Royals' partnership with Expo is incredibly important, says Badale
Rajasthan Royals' lead owner has also been impressed with The Hundred
Manoj Badale, the lead owner of Rajasthan Royals, is now gearing up for a big challenge off the field.
With the addition of two new teams from next year, competition in the world’s most hard-fought franchise tournament, the Indian Premier League (IPL), is going to get even more intense.
Having endured a disappointing finish in the injury-blighted 2021 season, Badale’s challenge will be to win the bids for the top players when the mega auction takes place in December.
In an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times, Badale also opened up on his franchise’s partnership with Dubai Expo 2020.
How important is Rajasthan Royals’ partnership with Dubai Expo?
The Royals partnership with Expo has been incredibly important, I think it’s been one of our most successful commercial partnerships in our history. It’s financially important for the franchise, but actually, the partnership goes way beyond that. I think we’ve been very lucky to have one full IPL in the UAE, and then one half IPL in the UAE, so we’ve been able to integrate into the expo itself. We’ve been able to showcase some of our cricket technologies and some of our cricket innovations. We’ve been able to use the Royals to hopefully activate footfall within the Expo. And hopefully, we brought some people to Dubai who would have otherwise not come.
The Hundred has got off to a great start in England. It’s the newest format in the game. Your thoughts...
Look, I think The Hundred was a fantastic success for the English game. If you look at their core objectives of broadening participation, they absolutely did that. I think there’s a lot we can learn from The Hundred in particular, the way they integrated the women’s game into the format. And I think the biggest beneficiary by far of The Hundred has been the women’s game. And I suspect you’ll see over the next two to three years that reflected in the growth of girl participation in cricket. So, look, I think The Hundred was great. I think The Hundred could get better. You know I think it’s very hard to have a truly top-class domestic tournament when you haven’t got the world’s best players playing in it. So if I were focused on The Hundred, that’s what I’d be focused on achieving next.
Rajasthan Royals have opened a second academy in UAE recently. Cricket is a big sport in this country because of the large number of South Asian expats. Do you have plans to give the best kids here IPL exposure in India?
Look I think the academies first and foremost are about just getting more kids into the game, getting more kids excited about the game. And we’ve had a little bit of success with the academies but again really we’ve only scratched the surface. We just hired a new chief executive to lead the academies business. We’ve got a shortlist of about, 70 different locations where we like to create Academy partnerships around the world over the next period of time. Of course, it’s a dream that at some point, you’ll be able to follow the pathway of a kid that came into one of our academies, played for one of our age group teams, and then made it to the IPL. But right now, there’s quite a big gap between what we’re doing in our academies, and what we’re doing with our elite performance.
The IPL mega auction will be held in December. What can we expect from the Royals? Will there be a major change in the team in terms of getting new players? Or will you look to keep the core of the team intact?
Look, there could certainly be a change in the team because it’s not clear what the rules will be. But, you know, the rumours are that there’ll be retention, but it’ll be reduced retention so depending on how many we’re allowed to retain will determine how much of the core, we can retain because once players get back into the auction, you have no control over (them). We have limited control over whether you get them back. You know, it’s a massively important item on the agenda. And our focus is going to be on, as we tried to do last time, you know, building a core base of talent that can compete to win, as opposed to competing simply to delight fans and win the occasional game from nowhere.
With two new teams added from next year, would you like to see more foreign players in the playing XI? Maybe one additional slot for the overseas stars?
I don’t know if that’s needed, I think, actually, by definition, with the addition of two new teams, you add eight new overseas slots in the teams you actually add sort of 16 to 17 in the squad so you are creating an expanded pool of opportunity for overseas players. One of the things that have blown me away in the last 13 years has been the development of young Indian talent. And, you know, back in 2008 and 2010, there were a couple of players that were on the pitch that we were sort of hoping that they would not do anything wrong. Now, you know, when I look at our current squad, you know there are at least seven or eight fantastic Indian talents that should be playing in an IPL team. And so, the thing I love the most is the impact of the IPL on the pipeline of Indian talent. I think the problem for world cricket is going to be there, pretty soon we’ll have an India A team, B team and C team that can compete with any team around the world. So, you know, how do you balance that.
Rajasthan Royals have recently acquired a majority stake in the Barbados Tridents in the Caribbean Premier League. That was a major step from your group. In future, can we expect investments in other franchise leagues as well?
The acquisition of Barbados is all about our ambition to not just be an Indian brand, an Indian franchise, but to be a global cricket franchise and a global brand, and perhaps even over time a global sports franchise, so it’s the first step, it’s a small step. If you think back to 2010, we actually created something called Royals 2020, which was a network of cricketing partnerships, you know, across the world, from Melbourne in Victoria to Hampshire. In the UK, and indeed we had a partnership with Trinidad, and with Cape Town in South Africa and also Pakistan, Sri Lanka, so we’ve always had the ambition. As I said earlier, we got distracted by a lot of our off-field challenges. Now we have no reason to be distracted. So I think Barbados is the first move. It’s an area with extraordinary cricketing heritage. It’s a part of the world with extraordinary cricketing talent. There’s a certain Jofra Archer, who plays for the Royals who hails from Barbados, so we’ve got some experience of that talent. So I think for us as a franchise, there are two or three opportunities that it presents — one is the extension of the brand into a different part of the world, and hopefully the building and the extension of the fan base. Two is deeper access and deeper visibility of a really important pool of cricketing talent. And three, it gives us the opportunity to play in another league and try different things. It’s quite hard to innovate and experiment in a tournament as intense as the IPL where margins are so small, between, you know, seven from first. But having maybe some of these other teams in other tournaments allows us to try different things, try different coaches, try young players, see how they perform in different roles. So there’s a lot to be excited about and I don’t think it’s the last time you will see us extend into another part of the world.
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