“I jokingly tell people that in India there are only two religions – cricket and Bollywood – and I’m involved in both.”
When Venky Mysore was appointed chief executive officer of Indian Premier League side Kolkata Knight Riders in 2010, he had one thing on his mind: global domination.
Mysore, who had forged a successful career in insurance, was brought in by KKR owner – and one of the biggest stars in Bollywood film – Shah Rukh Khan.
Despite KKR winning the 2012 and 2014 IPL tournaments, success in India was not enough for the two men in charge.
Speaking to BBC Sport, Mysore explains how he went on to acquire the team now known as Trinbago Knight Riders in the Caribbean Premier League, reveals his ambitious plans to break the United States with a Los Angeles Knight Riders franchise, and discusses potential involvement in The Hundred.
From Kolkata to the Caribbean
The IPL is widely considered the most lucrative competition in cricket – last season’s tournament reportedly earned the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) £340m in revenue, with 405 million Indian viewers watching on TV.
It is not just India’s cricket governing body reaping the benefits. Players can earn seven-figure sums, while the IPL’s global appeal attracts huge sponsorship deals for the eight franchise teams.
Plastered across KKR’s purple and gold jersey are logos of several sponsors, including an esports gaming platform, a well-known dental care company and a brand which makes ballpoint pens.
When Mysore was appointed, his vision was to create a global brand – and increase profit – outside of the eight-week competition.
“The IPL is a high-visibility type of tournament for two months but then we needed to think about how we keep the fans and brand alive for the rest of the year,” he says.
“How do we grow and get to the next level? I thought the only way to do it was to take the brand global.”
With this strategy in mind, in 2015 Red Chillies Entertainment – the media company owned by Khan and of which Mysore is also CEO – bought the Trinidad and Tobago Red Steel franchise in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) and renamed it the Trinbago Knight Riders.
Two teams, one brand
Trinbago and KKR share more than just the Knight Rider name. They have many of the same sponsors, are both coached by former New Zealand batsman Brendon McCullum, and several players, including West Indies’ Sunil Narine and Dwayne Bravo, play for both teams.
Trinbago have won four of the past six CPL titles, and Mysore believes the Knight Riders’ involvement has had a huge impact on the growth of cricket both in the Caribbean and India.
“We went into the CPL without any Indian players – as India does not allow its cricketers to play in other franchises – so the viewership in India was very limited, about 22 million,” he says.
“But in six years we’ve almost singularly been able to grow it to 150 million. What is the only connection between CPL and IPL? It’s Knight Riders.
“When we play in the CPL you should see the kind of buzz we have on social media in India – it’s massive.
“We even decided to play our games at 10am, which is prime time in India at 7:30pm, although my biggest challenge was to make sure my Caribbean boys were up early enough to come and play.”
Breaking America – the LA Knight Riders
Mysore plans to launch a Cape Town Knight Riders franchise in a new South African T20 competition, but also has his eyes firmly set on an untapped market – the US.
In December, the Knight Rider Group became a significant stakeholder in Major League Cricket, a T20 tournament set to launch in the US next year.
“We’re playing a different role in the States,” Mysore explains.
“We are going in to help them with all aspects of cricket; we’re becoming a part of the league.
“From a media standpoint, America is the number one market and cricket is the second most-watched sport in the world, so the potential is huge.
“We want to bring the average American fan into cricket.”
The Knight Rider Group also plans to launch a Major League Cricket team, with Los Angeles the preferred destination.
“So we’ll have KKR, Trinbago Knight Riders, Cape Town Knight Riders, and then the Los Angeles Knight Riders,” Mysore says.
“It’s about the infrastructure we will build too. The LA Knight Riders will have their own stadium. In fact, I suspect over the next two years there will be six world-class stadiums in the USA.”
The Lord’s Knight Riders?
Mysore says he would be keen on investing in The Hundred – the new 100-ball format set to launch in England this summer.
“I’ve had some talks with folks from the ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board) a while back, but I’m not sure they’re ready yet for a private investor model,” he says.
“But if The Hundred is something that becomes viable and they want us there, if it fits into our business strategy, then we’ll certainly be open to that.”
Any investment in The Hundred from the Knight Rider Group would be subject to certain conditions.
Mysore says: “Some of our imperatives will be can we brand it Knight Riders? Like Lord’s Knight Riders.”
While Mysore has grand plans to revolutionise world cricket, his most immediate order of business will be to take KKR to this year’s IPL final on 30 May and win a third title.