Source | espncricinfo Nov 28, 2018
One month out from the second edition of the T10 League, the tournament chairman Shaji Ul Mulk was in Mumbai for an important meeting. He was bringing a new CEO on board.
Arvinder Singh was closely involved with the IPL for ten seasons, serving as CEO of Kings XI Punjab from 2008 to 2015 before moving to Gujarat Lions for the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
Arvinder hadn’t thought much of the T10 League’s inaugural season. But the Mumbai meeting with Ul Mulk convinced him of the potential of the format.
Now sitting in the stands as the game roars around him, Arvinder explains his main task as the league’s CEO: to turn T10 into a bona fide tournament in cricket’s calendar.
“I did not see [the first tournament] live,” Arvinder tells ESPNcricinfo. “I had heard about this but, to be frank, I did not take it seriously. I don’t blame anybody for what happened last year. It started off as four days of cricket, carnival and entertainment.
“At the end of the day leagues are not made of all of that. While that’s okay to keep that in the stands and the entertainment high, if the cricket is not good and the cricket is not serious then you won’t be taken seriously.
“That’s the change that you see here and that is something I put my foot down to ensure it stays.”
Arvinder’s appointment came in the middle of a testing build-up to the league’s second season. Salman Iqbal, the league’s president, had stepped down, and one of the tournament’s eight franchises had to be rebranded following an order from the Sindh High Court. At one point, it seemed as if the 2018 season wouldn’t get underway at all.
“It is certainly a big challenge but I’m not too concerned with what happens behind the scenes,” Arvinder says. “If the product is good and the product is good on the ground, that is what I’m focused on. I think the league itself needs to have the strength within itself to bear the challenges off the pitch and continue to focus on what the product is.
“I believe there is tremendous potential for this format. It’s the fourth format sanctioned by the ICC and we have first-mover advantage and very exciting performances.”
The ICC’s approval, and the big names on the tournament’s roster – Chris Gayle, Shahid Afridi, Rashid Khan, Eoin Morgan et al – are evidence to Arvinder that the wider world could fall in love with T10.
“You name them, they are all here, so there must be something right about this,” he says. “I keep talking to the players and everybody is pretty excited about this format. It’s up to the league now to take this forward and ensure that we’re able to showcase it in the manner of a professional league.
“From a crowd-engagement perspective I appreciate the fact that the crowd wants to be engaged and be a part of the game as well.
“This is fine in the stadium but there are also hundreds of thousands watching on TV. From that perspective, if I do not get the eyeballs for serious cricket then all of this has no meaning.”