Robin Williams famously said that cricket is “baseball on Valium.” Well, millions of people around the world are addicts, and it just didn’t make sense to Lalit Modi, the vice president of BCCI, which governs cricket in India, that his sport could lack equivalent commercial success. So three years ago, Modi partnered with IMG exec Andrew Wildblood to change that. They adopted a sped-up version of the game called Twenty20, which cuts matches from multiple days to a more TV-friendly three hours. They instituted a franchise-ownership structure patterned after top sports leagues, attracting Bollywood royalty (Shahrukh Khan, Shilpa Shetty) and business bigwigs (News Corp. scion Lachlan Murdoch, Reliance Industries’ Mukesh Ambani, UB Group’s Vijay Mallya).
And in the league’s first season, they created what amounts to a new economy of cricket: The IPL is expected to generate revenue of nearly $2 billion over its first decade, including proceeds from TV rights ($918 million), promotion ($108 million), and franchises ($724 million). Last year, the league’s second season, the IPL proved it’s here to stay, selling the 2010-2019 rights to screen IPL games in cinema halls across India for about $70 million and inspiring an international version of the league. In baseball, they’d call that a home run.