Dubai Global News: I am not much familiar with cricket as a game. I see most countries of the Indian Subcontinent play cricket like India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. So, to get an idea, what is the history of this game?
Boria: The history is quite fascinating. New research has taken cricket back to the 13th-14th century, but such an origin has not been historically proven. But you can take cricket’s origins back to the late 18th century when it started in England as a peasant’s game. And thereafter, it was appropriated by the upper-class gentry in England when bets were placed on winning games. That is how the game started. And when the British Empire came in, this was one of the tools of civilization. For example, how football was used by the British for civilizing the natives, the same way cricket was used because it was a public school sport. The colonial Government used cricket the way the colonial state used sports around the 1860s, 70s, and 80s. Cricket was a part of the whole empire-building process to civilize the natives.
Dubai Global News: It was one country and one culture at that time?
Boria: Yes it was one country and what was happening was fascinating. On the political field, you were not able to beat the British, you were under the British; I am simplifying it but that is the story, but you were taking them on the sports field. To overturn the whole dynamic of the empire, cricket became a tool of nationalism. And once it became the tool of nationalism and nationalist expression, the sport took root and there was no looking back since then.
Dubai Global News: But when we look at history, we see that all the commonwealth countries play cricket. Do you think there is a reason for this?
Boria: There is. I have read about it in the American Historical Journal. The first International Cricket match ever recorded was between USA and Canada in 1844. So why did cricket go away in the USA and baseball come in? If you see the nationalist stories of the US they have their own specific sports; unlike in parts of the commonwealth where we have nationalist assertion. The climate also matters because you cannot play cricket in extreme cold or snow. That is another reason. Until the 1840s-50s cricket was moving parallel with baseball. From the 1870s baseball took off and cricket went down in the US.
Dubai Global News: Do you see cricket as a part of politics?
Boria: Absolutely! From Day 1 it has been political. So, when there were communal riots in India, what was the first major cricket tournament? It was the Bombay Pentangular. The Hindus, the Christians, the Muslims, and the rest played. The teams were communally organized. 5 teams play with each other based on communal lines. So that was India’s most popular tournament till the 1940s which was far more popular than today’s Ranji Trophy. And now if you see, any sport which raises 6 billion dollars for TV rights, there must be politics.
Dubai Global News: Cricket, as you said is famous in Asia and Commonwealth countries, but it is not as famous in the Middle East. What do you think is the future of Cricket in the Middle East or the countries where cricket is not that popular?
Boria: There are 2 things to be considered here. T10 for example is a format that the Middle East has introduced to the world game. I think that is the future if cricket must get into the Olympics. There is a conscious effort on part of the ICC to get cricket into the Olympics. If that happens automatically it becomes Global. The Middle East, in my opinion, since there is saturation in the India Market, will be the next big hub of cricket. And because of the T10 format, if you see the kind of facilities you have in Dubai, the IPL is being played. Now the UAE T20 League starts soon. After the Indian subcontinent, the next major base of world cricket in the coming years will be the Middle East.
Dubai Global News: Now for your book, what motivated you to write the book
Boria: It’s a book on the sports business, and I wanted to understand how the IPL became the IPL. How in 15 years it became the world’s second-richest league. It is also the story of India, India talking to the world, a new India. It is the story of the IPL and the formation of the IPL and Mr. Modi who created it and who subsequently had to leave because of politics. It is the backstage story of the IPL, what transpired and how things went on. The book is a no holds barred account. I have tried to document it in simple terms but in as much detail as I know and that’s what it is. It is not a biography of Lalit Modi. It is the most critical account of the formation of the IPL and how it all happened. It gives credit to Mr. Modi. The way I see it is you have to give credit to Mr. Modi for creating the IPL but you can question Mr. Modi for the way he ran the IPL. I don’t judge Modi, I leave it to the readers to judge him. My job is to narrate the story.
Dubai Global News: What is the message of the book?
Boria: The book narrates how this league was created in the country and how it became the world’s most popular league within a decade. It is also the story of Modern India speaking out to the world in a manner that has not been done before, creating a sports property now valued at billions. It is a parallel story of India, again a story of India that helps us understand modern India better. We are a country that is proud of what we are doing, we have enormous potential, and we can do things on a global stage that we have never done before. At the same time, there are lessons to be learned to ensure that we dominate world cricket in a manner that we have never done before.
Dubai Global News: Indian team is one of the strongest in world cricket. Which other teams do you think can give them a good challenge?
Boria: There are other good teams like Australia, Pakistan, New Zealand, and England. Despite being the richest nation we have not won a world cup recently, now that is the problem. Just being the financial nerve center is not enough. You need to win major trophies to be the best and that is something that has not happened for India recently and all are craving that. In 2023 we should have a World Cup on home soil and we should win the World Cup, that is what every Indian is aspiring for right now.
Dubai Global News: Last but not the least, what would you like to say to your readers?
Boria: Read the book. Please don’t think that I have judged Lalit Modi. This is a book with a no-holds-barred account and if you have an interest in business, sports, in the relationship between sports and business, in the IPL, and in the story of India, please read the book.