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Maverick Commissioner: The Beginning of the End

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‘Maverick Commissioner – The IPL Lalit Modi Saga’ by Boria Majumdar published by Simon and Schuster, is the untold story of IPL and the man. The extract more or less sums up the beginning of his fall from grace

Maverick Commissioner

Boria Majumdar

It was the year 2008, when the whole circus began, when people, which included celebrities and business owners invested in cricket players, a cricket team to be more precise. And, these teams were going to compete in what would continue to be called Indian Premier League – a 20-20 overs format of cricket peppered with entertainment and glamour. Who would have thought millions of rupees would continue to be poured into this format in the next coming decades, and that this model would percolate into other sports as well in India and across the world? Any memory of the beginning of IPL, would inevitably lead to Lalit Modi – a powerful entity, who is the creator of one of the most successful sports formats that would set the cash registers ringing for BCCI.

Sports journalist Boria Majumdar, who has been watching the rise of IPL, and the legendary rise and fall of the infamously famous Lalit Modi, decided to chronicle the story (Maverick Commissioner)

He writes, “With so much cricket played round the year, what is it about

the IPL that made it the most watched cricket

tournament in the world? And yet in the middle of all this success, problems had started. Modi was losing ground and by the end of season three, was forced out of the league that he had created and nurtured. He left India and hasn’t returned since. How did things go all wrong for him? What’s the back story? Can he ever make a comeback and how difficult has it been for him to stay away?”

‘Maverick Commissioner – The IPL Lalit Modi Saga’ by Boria Majumdar published by Simon and Schuster – This is the untold story of IPL and the man, who lives life king size, although away in London, and will continue to be associated with IPL.


21 March 2010. It was a day when the entire country was looking at Lalit Modi. Finally, the tenders for the two new IPL teams were to be opened and new winners announced. The tender process had been cancelled once earlier and a lot of acrimony had followed the cancellation. However, all that was finally a thing of the past and Modi had a busy morning in a plush five star hotel in Chennai ahead of him getting his team to evaluate the technical bids with Shashank Manohar seated next to him. The two, Manohar confirmed later, were in a relaxed mood. This was also because Modi, despite the presence of Bollywood biggies like Salman Khan and Saif Ali Khan, was the star of the show. The spotlight, on that particular day at least, was all on Modi and not on megastars like Salman Khan who was there representing one of the bidders. Frankly, this is what Lalit loved. He enjoyed the spotlight and adored being the cynosure of all attention. The IPL was his stage. He would open the bids, declare the winners, conduct the press conference and bask in the glory of having brought in millions of dollars for the BCCI. He loved Bollywood and cricket stars flocking around him, which would mean non-stop attention from the paparazzi.

Each time he declared the IPL as one of the world’s foremost sports properties he felt a sense of power. It was entirely his creation, and Lalit Modi, the world acknowledged, was the new pied-piper of world cricket. The baton had passed from Packer to Dalmiya and now to Modi. He just loved what was happening. The BCCI had asked all the prospective entrants to arrive at the hotel with their financial bids to ensure there was no accusation of bid rigging. Financial bids were to be submitted in full public view and anyone wanting to verify the amounts the maverick commissioner submitted could do so after the bids were disclosed by Modi. They were asked to walk up to the head table, scrutinise and ensure there was complete transparency in the process. It was essential to ensure probity in the conduct of the tender for the Board’s image had already been sullied once in the past.

That’s when Modi asked Manohar what his expectations were. It was just a casual question and was no more than small talk. Manohar apparently said about 325 million USD is what he was expecting based on the market buzz. Yet again, it was just a spontaneous statement based on conjecture. In the tender that was cancelled, the Videocon group had pledged 315 million USD and Manohar estimated a 2–3 per cent rise in the latest round of bidding. That’s when the penny dropped. Those present in the room confirmed that all of a sudden there was a change in mood. Modi, visibly disturbed and unnerved, started pressing for a quick evaluation of the technical bids so that he could open the financial bids as soon as possible. He was twitchy and had started sweating. “You could sense he was nervous and upset. From being in complete control and jovial, he was now acting as if things weren’t going right for him,” said a source.

A Modi critic who accused him of favouritism was scathing. “Why would he do so if he wasn’t indulging in wrongdoing? If he did not align himself with any particular bidder, how did it even matter to him what the final bid amounts really were? There was no reason for him to get anxious and check on the financial bids if he had nothing to hide.” Did Modi really have secrets to protect and was he canvassing for particular bidders as was claimed later? In the absence of conclusive proof, this remains conjecture but almost all in the know confirm Modi was leaning on the side of a few bidders on that particular day.

(Excerpted with permission from ‘Maverick Commissioner: The IPL-Lalit Modi Saga’ by Boria Majumdar,  Rs 699, 240PP, published by Simon and Schuster India)