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The business of sports: Cue the cricket

What's bigger than the NFL and NBA? Ask an Indian.

Modi is said to be the protege of Sharad Pawar, whose Congress Nationalist Party supports the ruling Congress government. Shashi Tharoor, a former U.N. deputy director general and a junior minister in the government, quit after Modi’s tweets led to a disclosure that the minister’s girlfriend had received a $15 million “sweat equity” in a newly auctioned IPL team.

But the scandal may end up having a bright side, said Sambit Bal, editor of leading global cricket website, ESPNcricinfo. “IPL grew too big too quickly in its single-minded desperation to become the world’s biggest sports league." Only professional management and full transparency could save the brand, he explained.

The gaudy commercialism of the IPL game has clearly appealed to India’s masses, and offended others. Crowds have thronged IPL Nights, $1,000-a-piece pay-and-party evenings where international and domestic cricket stars mixed with local celebrities and assorted Bollywood stars. Imported cheerleaders dressed in skimpy costumes raised the hackles of conservative Indians. IPL also enforced several "strategy breaks" in the game, in a boon for television advertisers.

Modi has undoubtedly taken a slow-moving game and converted it into a crowd puller. Stealing cricket’s epicenter away from rich countries such as England and Australia, he spun IPL into a money machine by compressing games into a three–hour window, and spicing it up with big business and Bollywood glamour.

“The IPL is exactly what young India was looking for, a mass entertainer that enthralled the average person every evening,” said Kamath, the sports lawyer. Meanwhile, the future of IPL hangs in balance with Modi continuing to tweet that he is still the IPL chief while threatening a "tell-all."

Fans that are still buying the team merchandise and watching the addictive matches over television are hoping to see more IPL action on field, rather than off it.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the reference to the IPL's valuation. The league is valued at $4 billion, it did not bring in $4 billion in revenues. The story was also updated to correct the size of Lalit Modi's stake in the Rajasthan Royals.