Parth Jindal, the co-owner of IPL heavyweights Delhi Capitals, has said the ‘cricket lover’ within him doesn’t ‘really like’ the direction cricket has taken, vis-à-vis players retiring from international sport prematurely to play T20 leagues. However, as a team owner, he is cognizant of the business side of the game as well.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Jindal, the director of JSW Sports, said: “I really find that extremely upsetting. You had the West Indies coach [Phil Simmons] saying, ‘I can’t make players to play for the West Indies anymore’. It’s really sad. I don’t know, I’m not very happy to see this happening.”
He added: “Because the IPL is two-and-a-half months long, it is very difficult to maintain the engagement with our fans and sponsors. So when we had an opportunity to buy a team in the South African League, and then our partners bought a team in the UAE lead, we felt that this was an opportunity to keep the brand alive and relevant for a longer period of time.”
Jindal was talking in the context of the precarious position international cricket finds itself in. With franchise T20 cricket becoming more powerful and taking up bigger space in the annual calendar, through leagues across the world, and the fact that some of the top cricketers are turning into T20 mercenaries by taking early international retirement, putting into doubt the future of ODI and Test cricket.
Delhi Capitals is one of the teams leading the expansion of cricket’s global footprint, with the group adding Dubai Capitals and Pretoria Capitals to its bouquet. They aren’t the only ones – the Knight Riders, for instance, have teams in the T20 leagues of the Caribbean, the UAE, South Africa and also the upcoming tournament in the US.
JSW Sports’ chief executive Mustafa Ghouse compared the proliferation of the leagues to the sudden mushrooming of ‘IPL-style’ leagues across sports in India. Ghouse, a former Davis Cupper, was slightly apprehensive about the success of each and every league that’s coming up but pointed out two critical factors that could determine the direction cricket takes in the coming years: the sport’s ability to gatecrash a ‘mature’ US sporting market and the potential inclusion in the Olympics at LA 2028.
“I think the Olympic piece is important,” Ghouse said. “If cricket does make it into the Olympics, that will globalise the sport in a much, much bigger manner. And yes, the US plays a big piece in all of this because their ability to commercialise and monetise sport is second to none.”
For Jindal, cricket is just one part of the investment, albeit the most significant given it’s also the most profitable. His group spends approximately Rs 60-65 crore per year across sports, Jindal says, and has seen returns, in terms of athletes they support winning medals, in sports such as wrestling, boxing, judo and the recent track-and-field success at the Commonwealth Games, where athletes like high jumper Tejaswin Shankar, steeplechaser Avinash Sable and long jumper Murali Sreeshankar were all backed by the group.
Jindal, 32, said their next frontier is swimming, with the programme under South African coach Rushdee Warley – also the CEO of Inspire Institute of Sports – targeting the 2026 CWG and the LA Olympics.
But funding the Olympic stars hasn’t always been smooth sailing, with the federations, in particular, expressing apprehension over the involvement of private bodies in running sports. This came to the fore after the Tokyo Olympics in particular, when the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) barred its athletes from communicating directly with private players.
Jindal plays down those incidents and says the government, federation and private organisations are now on the same page. “There’s a sea of change in the way the government, through its TOP Scheme, as well as the federations are approaching high performance and sport in general. There will always be certain idiosyncrasies but in general, the federations are more professional, consultative and open to suggestions and feedback,” Jindal said.
He, however, does not feel the same way about the way football is governed in the country. Jindal owns one of India’s most successful clubs, Bengaluru FC, but has been left disillusioned with the way the sport is run. In 2019, he had written a letter to Indian Super League chairperson Nita Ambani, requesting a roadmap to make the league more sustainable financially.
While he says efforts have been made on that front and remains bullish about the ISL’s future, Jindal is concerned about the current state of affairs at the All India Football Federation (AIFF), which doesn’t have an elected body and is run by a Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators.
“What’s happening on the AIFF side is extremely tragic. We talk about professionalism and I can tell you for a fact that the worst Olympic federation is better than the AIFF,” he said. “I resigned from the Western India Football Association last week because I just don’t want to be associated with the governance of football. What’s going on is not acceptable. I hope and pray that the Supreme Court, in its wisdom, takes the right decision for Indian football.”