Bansal: ‘IPL experience has taught us a lot’

Gujarat Lions’ 25-year-old owner Keshav Bansal, a young passionate sports enthusiast, admits to a “different kind of experience” of handling an IPL team.

Keshav Bansal wishes to continue his association with IPL as a team owner beyond the fill-in period of two years.   -  Special Arrangement

The sense of excitement is hard to miss as Keshav Bansal starts talking about cricket. A young sports enthusiast, Bansal is passionate about the game and it seems, for him winning is everything.

But there is more to it than meets the eye.

Beneath the passionate, cricket enthusiast, there appears a 25-year-old entrepreneur, who is also the youngest owner of an Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise - Gujarat Lions. “It has been a great season last year, and that experience has taught us a lot,” he tells Sportstar. The youngster, who is also the director of Intex Technologies, pauses, before explaining how the tenth edition of the IPL is important for him and the side. “There were a few improvements that were necessary this year, and we tried to work on those areas. We have strengthened our bowling line-up this time, and the team looks perfectly balanced,” Bansal says.

Last year, when Intex Technologies entered the IPL arena, it knew that the jamboree would only be for two seasons. And, Bansal is happy with the response he received last season. “The basic idea was to promote the brand. We have been in cricket sponsorship for 10-12 years, but handling an IPL team has been a different kind of experience. That has taught us a lot,” he says, adding that with Gujarat Lions’ success in the tournament, the flagship company, too, has been able to reach out to the target market in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh.

“The decision to own an IPL team came fifteen days before the bidding process. But it has taught us how the BCCI is run, and how one manages things in a busy league like the IPL. With this experience we can diversify,” he says.

Though the company wishes to continue in the IPL for some more seasons, its eventuality depends on the Board of Control for Cricket in India. In 2015, the board had inducted Rising Pune Supergiant and Gujarat Lions for two years. “The intention is there (to continue). But with the reforms going on in the BCCI, we will be able to talk about it only after speaking to the board, after the IPL,” he says.

With their contract in the IPL ending after this edition, Bansal does have plans to invest in other sporting leagues as well. “We have consciously thought of diversifying into other sporting territories as well. The infrastructure is ready, the planning is on, and the team is ready. So, we may think of getting into other sports soon,” Bansal says.

Is he planning to buy a team in the Pro-Kabaddi League? The young entrepreneur takes a pause and says, “We are thinking about all the aspects. Nothing is concrete yet.”

JADEJA, BRAVO A CONCERN

There is also some doubt over the availability of its star player Ravindra Jadeja. With the BCCI advising two weeks of rest to the spinner, there are speculations on his joining. Bansal, however, says the team will miss Jadeja for two matches. “That’s what we have been communicated so far,” he says.

West Indies’ Dwayne Bravo’s injury is also a big concern for the team. While he is expected to join the camp in a few days, the all-rounder has still not recovered fully. “We are bringing a special trainer for him. So, a lot depends on how quick he recovers. His appearance depends on his match-fitness,” the franchise owner points out.

Happy with the way Suresh Raina and coach Brad Hodge have handled the side, Bansal feels the team has enough back-up in case there are injury woes. “In IPL, the schedule is very tight, so everything has to be properly arranged. So, planning is also important to ensure smooth functioning,” he says, admitting that in IPL business, everything has to be prim and proper.

Well, that’s talking business!