‘The Caravan’ Paints A Vivid Portrait of Former IPL Czar Lalit Modi
Samanth Subramanian’s article on Lalit Modi in arts and politics journal The Caravan is an inside look at the mad genius of the man. Unlike other articles about Modi that you’ve possibly read these past four years, it captures the very essence of his character—the good and bad. The title, “The Confidence Man” is misleading, given that rather than bashing him, it tells you all you need to know about Modi and yet maintains a sense of neutrality that has been missing from most other profiles on him. At the end, the reader is left to decide their own opinion of the controversy courting former IPL chairman. Here are some highlights:
There is nothing new here, or at least nothing that the papers haven’t written about. The profile talks about how Modi was a headstrong teenager, who defied his parents by applying to universities abroad. When in college at Duke University in the US, Modi was charged with conspiracy to traffic cocaine, kidnapping and assault in 1985, and put on five years probation. He married his mother’s friend Minal Sagrani, a woman nine years older than him; and was the first to distribute television channels ESPN and Fashion TV in India, contracts which he ended up losing. Again, all of this is mostly known, but it’s a good primer on Modi if you haven’t followed the nitty gritties of his life thus far.
Captured beautifully in the piece is Modi’s understanding of the power of sports entertainment. Not many people understand sports entertainment and the psychology involved in it. Modi seemed to be born with the knack for it. We learn that his ideas were well ahead of their time, including his format for a franchise-based, one-day cricket league similar to the IPL, which he first floated unsuccessfully in the mid-1990s.
Modi’s working style
Again, something we knew about the man. But the article does give some insight into the extent to which Modi went to make the league a success. When talking about IPL 2’s last minute move to South Africa, the article quotes Modi’s friend, Shamsher Singh: “For the first four days there…he didn’t sleep a single second. I know this for a fact. Not one second.” After reading about his work ethic, visionary thoughts and ideas, only a fool would argue that the IPL would be what it is today without Lalit Modi.
How he became Lalit Modi
Some of the most interesting parts of the article are about his journey to the top of the Rajasthan Cricket Association. His removal of the Rungtas, “the family that controlled the RCA—and drove it into the ground—over many, many years” makes for a riveting read. “Modi hacked away at the Rungtas’ base of power, via an ordinance engineered to whisk voting rights away from 66 individual members of the RCA, leaving only the 32 districts. The ordinance was, naturally, challenged in court by the Rungtas, but Modi had done enough—schmoozed enough, bullied enough, sweet-talked enough—to ensure that nobody supported them.” This is one story that has not been covered much elsewhere. It reveals his political side and understanding of the complicated system that is Indian cricket.
Some men handle it well while others let it control them. His handling of people and desperate need to be a control freak are all revealed through various parts of the piece. To his subordinates, Modi could be chilling in his pursuit and abuse of power. From his treatment of bodyguards (“If you saw how he spoke to his bodyguards…you don’t treat anybody like that,” said the ESPN executive) to his decision to find an interviewer and post the video on YouTube (“It is more likely, as Srinivas told me, that Modi chose YouTube because he simply wanted to control every aspect of the interview: who asked the questions, what those questions were, how he answered them, how the video was edited, and where the video finally played”), Subramanian details a semi-megalomaniac whose insatiable love of power was his eventual undoing.
The Confidence Man [The Caravan]Tags: Cricket, IPL, Lalit Modi, Media, The Caravan