'Hope Northeast plays more cricket': Rajasthan Royals Chairperson to BNE

Priyanka Chakrabarty

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Guwahati: Rajasthan Royals, one of the most highly decorated teams in the Indian Premier League (IPL), have made Guwahati, Assam their second home. Ahead of their mouth-watering clash with eastern Indian powerhouse Kolkata Knight Riders, RR chairperson Ranjit Barthakur held an enlightening discussion with Business North East about the synergy between India's biggest sporting league and the Northeast, where it is seen as having the potential to inspire the next generation of cricket icons. Below are the excerpts:

Business NorthEast: Tell us about the collaborations between the Royals and Assam.

Ranjit Borthakur: I think it is very important to understand that the IPL has given us a chance as a franchise to perform in all parts of the country and give all players an opportunity. And it was just as well that in our scouting, our team found Riyan Parag and he is doing well. I don't want to give it too much of a dimension of Assam or Bengal or Rajasthan. The point is, they're playing good cricket, they are playing for IPL, and they are playing for India, which is the most important thing. That being said, the Rajasthan Royals' home is Assam. This is our second home. We like to believe that we are the Assam Royals and that we are Assam's favourite team. We also like to believe that we are the Northeast's favorite team. So we look forward to all the fans supporting us. 

Business NorthEast: What are the preparations for the next IPL match, on Sunday? 

Ranjit Borthakur: We are playing against KKR, and the encounter is highly anticipated as we are the top two teams in the league. A lot of preparations are going on in terms of online, offline, off-field, and on-field training with the entire team. Our team has been motivated to ensure that we play the way we always play and not be too affected by the small reversals that we've had in the last four matches. We look forward to playing great cricket with KKR, which is a formidable team.

Business NorthEast: Tell us about the technological and digital aspects of training.

Ranjit Borthakur: We've got a team that looks at artificial intelligence and other forms of digital study. We've got a whole team that looks after the process of team management and technology. The team's technology helps each person to perform better and our head coach leads that exercise. We're very pleased to inform that we are doing very well in this kind of analysis. 

Business NorthEast: Can you share your thoughts on the prospect of more Assamese players in the team?

Ranjit Borthakur: We are not Assam-centric for sure. However, we have, by default, become a little Assam-focused because this is our second home. So that's the first part. With this, we hope that Assamese people, as well as people in the Northeast, start playing more cricket and featuring in domestic tournaments which will pave the way for the big leagues. Based on the domestic tournaments, they will get listed to be part of the IPL auction. And if they are part of the IPL auction, I'm sure that we will look at them favorably.

Business NorthEast: According to you, how is IPL helping the country?

Ranjit Borthakur: IPL is necessary and IPL has done very good service for sportsmen and cricket. I believe that we are very, very well poised to create more and more cricketers. So many Indians are getting into cricket, which, in turn, is very beneficial for their health. The ecosystem of IPL has generated a lot of revenue for the media and other industries. So many industries are a part of the value chain: the hotels, the transportation, meaning the entire branding. So we very much think that IPL will help the economy, help the players, and help the inclusion of society. It is also one of the greatest products India has launched in modern times and that itself is very helpful for promoting India. We are very proud that IPL has happened.

Business NorthEast: What are the new branding and marketing tactics IPL has used to remain up-to-date in the current scenario of cricket?

Ranjit Borthakur: They've got a good sponsor in the form of Tata. They're the biggest company with the biggest reach, with all their products, helping to give it a fantastic image. All other brands that are linked with IPL are also very helpful and very powerful in creating a brand image for cricket. 

The new techniques that they're using are always interesting. They use social media and TV in different forms of slices it is distributed to almost all countries with a viewership of anywhere between 600 to 900 million. It is good for cricket and it also helps people to perform better. We are always looking at new media and technology. Many digital formats have also helped in spreading IPL to the mass market.

Business NorthEast: How is Rajasthan Royals planning to stay ahead of the curve?

Ranjit Borthakur: We are trying very hard to ensure that our team remains in line with all the world developments in batting, bowling, and fielding. For that physicality is important. So the entire business of analytics has come into power. The fundamental thing is we have programs around the year in our camp in Nagpur. We have a very special high-performance academy there. So our players go there from time to time to enhance their physicality, emotional strength, and mental strength. 

Business NorthEast: How did you become associated with the Royals?

Ranjit Borthakur: I and my partner Manoj Badale worked very hard before the IPL to brand cricket as a heroic sport for India. We asked ourselves: why can't we create a kind of sporting reality show? So we launched Cricket Star, which did well. We had great partners like Unilever, Airtel, and Doordarshan. So when we went to make a presentation to Lalit Modi and BCCI, we found that we were welcome and asked to make a bid. So we made a bid and we got the franchise. We were the eighth franchise at that time and we got Jaipur and Rajasthan as a franchise. My partner, who's the real brains behind this idea, took me along for the ride. I have since been the executive chairman and have been very proudly associated with Rajasthan Royals through all its ups and downs. Still, it's been a very proud moment that I have been able to also garner some support to move to Guwahati and to have two of the matches here.

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Priyanka Chakrabarty