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Gaurav Kalra
Sunday , March 14, 2010 at 18 : 35

Lalit Modi, battler beyond compare


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Multi-tasking, as the wife always reminds me, is the sole preserve of women. Give men more than one task to do at a time and they are more than likely to flounder. Unsure of what to prioritise, us lot are given to the yips. It is why, I have to admit to a sneaking admiration for Lalit Modi. In his world it seems one trouble at time is barely a blip on the radar. Problem solving is Modi's favourite pastime. To his mind defeat in a confrontation is impossible--Modi is the "anti-man" of this generation!

As Yusuf Pathan smashed a hundred in 37 balls you knew instantly that all was well with Modi's IPL. That he had emerged from the battlefronts unscathed and stronger. That for all its alleged "grotesqueness", his cricket jamboree is the game's most vibrant product. That he remains the ringmaster to whose tune the world's most talented cricketers and some of the world's richest men and women dance. That for these six weeks at least he is the power centre of the global game.

In every confrontation leading into this year's tournament, Modi has had his way. In Andhra Pradesh, they were up in arms after he "tweeted' their home matches out of Hyderabad and Vizag. "Insult", yelled the state sports minister. Even the Chief Minister threatened the games return or else....The Chargers themselves made noises about not being consulted before the decision was made. But the storm raged and then settled. The schedule stays. Deccan, as Modi ordained, will play their "home" matches in Mumbai, Nagpur and Cuttack.

Player Association chiefs in Australia, England, South Africa and New Zealand went rambling on about security fears. But the very men who form those associations, the players themselves, weren't interested in the fight. The lure of the IPL pie meant they fought Modi's battle for him. All barring none hopped aboard flights to India. Security plans were apparently shared but the decision wasn't for the associations to make. Modi punted on the players' needing the IPL more than the IPL needing the players. He was proved right.

When Modi and his franchise owner mates made the graceless decision ignore the Pakistanis at this year's auction, one felt the rage would make him relent. The home minister of the country; no less asked for a change of heart. Without the world champions of T20 the tournament would be poorer, opined the expert view. The PCB, an ally in ICC corridors, called him "arrogant" and demanded he apologise. But Modi refused to concede. No apologies. No relaxing of rules to allow even the tokenism of a couple of Pakistani players. No one seems to care anymore that the Pakistanis aren't here. Modi weathered the storm because he knew when the dust settles, the glitz will glaze over the missing pieces.

Modi's battle with news channels was quite fascinating. I sat on the other side of it, wondering if he worried about the lack of build up. Hype after all was the oxygen need for IPL's sustenance. After all, how often does Shah Rukh Khan do a press conference with no cameras present! Modi had to concede, didn't he? He has. But we have to admit, we have conceded much more. The use of footage is now severely restricted. The rights holders' privilege to commercially exploit what he has paid millions of dollars for is being preserved. The first step towards abiding by internationally accepted parameters for the use of footage has been taken. Once the boycott ended, News Channels were just as upbeat about reporting the IPL. But the rules of the game are no longer set by them.

Lalit Modi is a game changer because of a deep-rooted sense of conviction. Misplaced, you may say, but it remains his own. It intrigues me that inspite of dividing opinion so sharply, usually against his view, Modi remains adamant. He digs his heels into a battle. Perhaps even relishes confrontation. He is unflustered by the stature of his opponent. Draws strength from the power of his creation. Feels no fear of consequences. Like a feisty woman, Modi multi-tasks with élan. And even when he is wrong, he ends up on the winning side. Loathing him is an obsession around the cricket globe, but Modi seems to care little about winning popularity contests. He'd much rather be in a battle; it is his comfort zone!


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More about Gaurav Kalra

Gaurav Kalra has been producing sports content on television for over a decade. He started his career at Trans World International where for four years he worked on a variety of programming including magazine shows, news bulletins and live broadcasts. In his next role at Quintus, Gaurav produced a series of programming under the Wisden brand name, including the Wisden Indian cricketer of the century and the Wisden Awards. Gaurav joined CNN-IBN as Sports Editor in 2005.
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