You are no doubt a well-celebrated banker and have spent 33 years in the financial sector. And now you own an EPL team. What drove you into sport and own an EPL team?
I have always been a sports lover as I also play a few games. As of now I am also the President of Nepal Squash Rackets Association. But all along I had great interest in cricket that has the best chance amongst all team sports to rise to international level. Inspired by the development of sports activities in India through commercialization and promotion of sports like cricket (IPL), football (ISL), badminton (IPL) including hockey, wrestling, kabaddi, etc., I thought that Nepal should also start somewhere. Hence, the announcement of formation of EPL and franchise based city teams was a perfect opportunity for sports lovers like me and I immediately grabbed the opportunity.
EPL is a newbie in Nepalese sport arena. How challenging was it for you to seek sponsors?
Initially it was quite challenging. I had to make excellent presentation materials with proven facts and figures. However, it didn’t take much time for me to convince the sponsors when they saw that this was not only a contribution to development of cricket in Nepal but also commercially made sense as the mileage each of the sponsors could get out of the whole show is manifold higher than the mileage they would have received had they resorted to simple advertising activities for the same money. Each of the sponsors do have promotion budget and they spend this through print and electronic media. Here, for the same money, their brand advertisement is being done through numerous print advertisements: FM stations, TVCs, pole adverts throughout the city of Lalitpur, hoarding boards and perimeter boards at the playing venue which would be on television as all the games are being telecasted live. Besides, all the jerseys and playing apparels, traveling apparels, traveling buses, etc. would have the names of the sponsors. Various selling merchandises would also have names of our sponsors. Above all, many national figure players would be their excellent brand ambassadors.
Why did you choose Lalitpur? Any particular reason?
Two reasons – all other teams had already been sold (4 of them bought by well-known business houses), hence only Lalitpur was left on offer. Further as I was born, raised and living in Lalitpur, instantly I concluded that I must buy my city team.
Please explain the process of buying an EPL Team.
The entire process has been modeled after the successful IPL format of India. Different owners paid different prices that have been kept confidential. Each team has bought franchise right for 10 years and each year the franchise fee will increase by 10%.
Why did you name the team ‘Lalitpur Patriots’?
As I stated earlier, I am a pure Lalitpur resident. I bought the franchise rights to elevate the name of Lalitpur. I don’t have my own business house to back me up, yet I went ahead and invested in the team based on my love for this city. I wanted the residents of Lalitpur to accept the team as their own and also for many cricket fans across the entire country to identify their cricketing passion through emotional attachment as well with Lalitpur city team. Such feelings can come through patriotic sentiments, hence the name is ‘Lalitpur Patriots’.
What is the logic behind the team’s logo & its color?
The logo signifies several aspects. The lions represented the most powerful animal, king of the jungle. Through this, we want to absorb our strength, agility and speed. The Lions have been modeled after the Lions that stand in the doorway of the famous golden temple of Lalitpur, Suvarna Mahabihar temple, the flames on two flanks of the logo denote the fire burning inside out team to win. Red color is the color of the fire and it also symbolizes hot patriotism of Nepal as a whole that is the main base of our national flag. The yellow color symbolizes the high value of our team which is nothing lesser than gold.
Realistically & objectively, how do you rate the “Lalitpur Patriots” compared to another team?
Lalitpur Patriots is a well-balanced team. We have a very strategic captain Gyanendra Malla and an experienced qualified coach like Raju Basnet. During the auction process of the players, we bid for players in such a way that we have in our team appropriate batsmen in various order, bowlers with mix of fast, medium, slow and off spin styles. The depth of our selection is evident from the selection of players through local Talent Hunt. Although there will be only one included in the regular squad, we went ahead and selected 4 from more than 105 applicants. Post selection, we were elated when 2 of our 4 players got included in the Under 16 national team which is currently playing ACC U-16 Eastern Regional Championship in Thailand. Our selected player, Pratish GC managed to take 3 wickets in the last winning match against Hongkong. Further, we have also bought 3 players from India with All Round capabilities – batting, fast bowling and even wicket keeping.
Is there any player whom do you think is your trump card? Why?
We have selected our players for various orders of play based on their playing styles. We have already decided on our opening batsmen all the way to middle order batmen. We have prominent names like Leg Off-spinner Sandeep Lamichhane (who has fan like former Australian Cricket Team’s captain Michael Clarke in whose team, Western Suburbs District Cricket Club he has played) and Fast Bowlers like Mehboob Alam who hold Guinness World Record for single handedly bowling out Mozambique picking up 10 wickets for 12 runs in 7.5 overs during 2008 ICC World Cricket League Division Five in Jersey. My captain, Gyanendra Malla himself is a suberb player and a very good strategist.
Have you planned anything special for the future after the ‘Lalitpur Patriots’ completes this season?
As per our contractual arrangement, Lalitpur Patriots will be my team for at least 10 years. I am giving continuity as far as my ability and resources can manage. I have excellent back up team in Idea Shop which has been managing all my events and logistics. Here I would like to express my special gratitude to Neeraz Koirala, CEO of Idea Shop.
I am building Lalitpur Patriots as an adored and successful brand in the same manner as the teams playing in IPL. Tomorrow, let us fill proud walking down the road wearing apparel bearing Lalitpur Patriots logo or drinking tea with our logo.
I expect EPL to move ahead with bigger vision which would enable us to raise the depth of the tournament to greater heights. We look forward to seeing bigger international names to be playing in EPL and thus making it commercially manifold vibrant. This would be to the benefit of our country’s cricket and the cricketers.