KR’s owner Shah Rukh Khan (second from right) has been at the top of Bollywood cinema for almost 30 years and has starred in more than 80 films.
I joke to people that there are only two religions in India – cricket and Bollywood – and I am involved in both.
When Venky Mysore was appointed CEO of the Kolkata Knight Riders of the Indian Premier League in 2010, he had only one thing on his mind: world domination.
Mysore, who has had a successful career in insurance, was hired by KKR owner – and one of Bollywood’s biggest movie stars – Shah Rukh Khan.
Although KKR won the IPL tournaments in 2012 and 2014, success in India has eluded them.
In an interview with Sports, Mysore explains how he acquired the team now known as the Trinbago Knight Riders in the Caribbean Premier League, reveals his ambitious plans to shake up the United States with the Los Angeles Knight Riders franchise, and talks about his possible involvement with the Hundreds.
From Kolkata to the Caribbean
Eoin Morgan, captain of the England rugby union team, is KKR’s captain in the IPL this year.
The IPL is considered the most lucrative cricket competition – the tournament reportedly earned the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) £340 million last season and was watched by 405 million Indian viewers.
The Indian cricket handbook is not the only one to benefit. Players can earn seven-figure sums, while the global appeal of the IPL attracts huge sponsorship deals for the eight franchise teams.
KKR’s purple and gold shirt features the logos of several sponsors, including an esports gaming platform, a well-known dental company and a brand of ballpoint pens.
When Mysore was appointed, his vision was to build a global brand – and increase profits – beyond the eight-week contest.
The IPL is a high profile tournament for two months, but after that we had to figure out how to retain the fans and the brand for the rest of the year, he says.
How can we grow and reach the next level? I thought the only way to do that was to make the brand global.
It was with this strategy in mind that Red Chillies Entertainment, a media company owned by Khan whose CEO is also Mysore, acquired Trinidad and Tobago’s Red Steel franchise in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) in 2015 and renamed it Trinbago Knight Riders.
Two teams, one number
Trinbago Knights are the defending champions of the Caribbean Premier League.
Trinbago and KKR share more than just the Knight Rider name. They have many of the same sponsors, they are both coached by former New Zealand batsman Brandon McCullum and several players play for both teams, including Sunil Narine of West Indies and Dwayne Bravo of Dwayne.
Trinbago have won four of the last six CPL titles and Mysore believes the Knights’ involvement has had a big impact on the growth of cricket in the Caribbean and India.
We participated in the CPL without Indian players – because India does not allow its cricketers to play in other franchises – so the audience in India was very limited, about 22 million people, he said.
But in six years, we’ve reached nearly 150 million on our own. What is the only connection between PLC and IPL? It’s the Knights Riders.
When we play in the CPL, you should see the buzz we get on social media in India – it’s huge.
We even decided to play our matches at 10am, while in India it is 7.30pm ‘prime time’. My biggest challenge was making sure my Caribbean boys got up early enough to come play.
Breaking America – Los Angeles Knights.
Mysore is planning to launch the Cape Town Knight Riders franchise in the new South African T20 competition, but is focusing heavily on the untapped market of the United States.
In December, Knight Rider’s band became a major contender in the Major League Cricket Tournament, a T20 tournament that will start in the United States next year.
In the US, we play a different role, says Mysore.
We will help them in all aspects of cricket, we will be part of the league.
From a media perspective, America is the number one market and cricket is the second most popular sport in the world, so the potential for the sport is huge.
We want to appeal to the average American cricket fan.
Venky Mysore, CEO of KKR, was born in India before moving to the US and pursuing a career in financial services.
The Knight Rider group is also planning to create a Major League Cricket team, with Los Angeles being the preferred location.
So we will have the KKR, the Trinbago Knight Riders, the Cape Town Knight Riders and then the Los Angeles Knight Riders, says Mysore.
It’s also about the infrastructure we’re going to build. The Los Angeles Knights are getting their own stadium. In fact, I think there will be six world class stadiums in the United States in the next two years.
Mysore says he would like to invest in The Hundred, a new 100-ball format launched in England this summer.
I had discussions with people at the ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board) some time ago, but I don’t know if they are ready for the private investor model yet, he says.
But if The Hundred becomes viable and they want us there, if it fits into our business strategy, then we will definitely be open to it.
Any investment in Knight Rider’s Hundred is subject to certain conditions.
Mysore said: Some of our imperatives can be described as Knights Riders? Like the Lord’s knights.
Mysore has big plans to revolutionise world cricket, but his most immediate task will be to help KKR win on May 30. in this year’s IPL final and win a third title.
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