I would love to be proven wrong and see the Maharashtra Premier League (MPL) 20-20 cricket league be successful. The MPL concept sure had the potential, but unfortunately the format and packaging makes it seem like the MPL will not deliver.
For those who aren’t aware of what the MPL is,
Cotton King Maharashtra Premier League is an exact replica of the Indian Premier League T 20 tournament. Franchisees have been sold through private placement and players have being auctioned. The total spend on the players in MPL would range from Rs.19 to Rs. 48 lakhs.
“Cotton king Maharashtra Premier League 09- a MCA and Sakaal Initiative’’ will be played on T20 (League cum knock out) format with adherence to the international rules and standards. Each team will play with each team implying at least 7 games per side, followed by semi finals and finals. All the matches would be played on Deccan Gymkhana and PYC Hindu Gymkhana Grounds. The 8 franchisee teams participating in the tournament are named as Devgiri Emperors, Sinhagad Supremos, Sindhudurga Sailors, Torna Tigers, Panhala Panthers, Raigad Royals, Pratapgad Warriors and Shivneri Lions.
The MPL site says that they have copied the Indian Premier League (IPL), and they sure have in many respects. Even the website names are similar. The IPL site is http://www.iplt20.com/ while the MPL site is http://www.mplt20.com/. However unfortunately they have not copied some of the elements that are key to the success of the IPL.
- City Loyalties – The teams in the IPL are named after cities / states in India however the teams in the MPL are named after forts in Maharashtra. I think that’s a gargantuan mistake, as the most important reason why IPL teams have managed to create loyal and die hard followers, is their association with cities and states. People from Rajasthan actually support the Rajasthan Royals while those from Delhi support the Delhi Daredevils and so on. The MPL has teams like Devgiri Emperors, Sinhagad Supremos, Sindhudurga Sailors… These generate zero passion and following. It still isn’t too late, the MPL should urgently switch to names like Pune Panthers, Nagpur Supremos, Nashik Warriors…. Get some fire going… Get cities to compete against each other.
- Home Away Format – The IPL had a home-away format where all teams played each other in one home match and one away match. With the MPL, all matches are being played on two grounds in Pune. Even those grounds are within 200 metres of each other.
- Night Matches – I can understand that night matches might be difficult to pull off, considering that the MPL would not have IPL scale budgets. However MPL should definitely aspire to hold all matches at night. I for one will definitely be interested in watching night t20 matches, where a Pune team is pitted against any other city team.
- TV Coverage – Get the matches on TV. Even an obscure TV channel is fine, but live coverage is a must.
- Media Tieup with Sakal – The Sakal media house is driving the MPL. This is not essentially a bad thing. However Sakal’s presence has resulted in other newspapers giving bare minimum, if any coverage to the tournament. The MPL should have been an “MCA Initiatve” and a “MCA and Sakaal Initiative”. The MCA could have sold rights to Sakal but always referring to the MPL as a “MCA and Sakaal Initiative” seems to be a big turnoff for other media houses.
I believe that if the MPL can manage to fix these five issues, the tournament will pick up. If not all 5, atleast point one, about renaming the teams has to be addressed asap. As I said earlier, I would love to be proven wrong, but the MPL in it’s current form looks highly unlikely to get a mass following. The Lokmat T20 Championship, a supposedly competing tournament is scheduled to start in Nov 09. So the MPL also doesn’t have much time to get it’s act together.
There are many careers and crores riding on the MPL and it would be sad to see it flop.