Karnataka’s contribution to Indian cricket has always been very fundamental. Taking this interest a step forward, the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) decided to get into the 20-20 format in 2009. What was interesting here was their initiative to boost the game at the grass root levels. Karnataka Premier League was modeled around the IPL. 8 teams were formed by grouping 3-4 districts together. 8 teams would also translate to 8 team owners or franchisees.
People from different strata of the state came together to support this cause that KSCA had decided to promote. Noted Kannada film and television celebrities made their presence for the theme song that was composed by the very popular Ricky Kej. Kaviraj penned brilliant lyrics for the same and soon the song spread like a viral in the state. Sun Network bought the rights of airing the tournament live on television. Soon, Udaya Varthegalu became a popular channel.
The franchisees ensured they did everything to make their respective teams popular – from giving names, creating their jerseys, launching the teams, promoting the teams on field and making cool team merchandise. Mangalore United, Bangalore Brigadier’s, Provident Bangalore, Belgaavi Panthers, Malnad Gladiators, Bijapur Bulls, Mysore Maharajas and Shamanur Davanagere Diamonds became household names. Stalwarts like Sachin Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh had flow down to attend the launch parties. They got various Kannada film celebrities like Sudeep, Suman Ranganathan, Bhavana, Tejaswini and Sindhu to become brand ambassadors. It was a show of pomp, glamour and style.
The first season saw matches being held in Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore and Gangothri in Mysore. Tickets were reasonably priced in order to draw the crowds to the stadium. It was also decided that every year a few games would be played outside Bangalore, in order to improve the stadiums / grounds at other smaller cities. Season 1 went well. Cricket fans in Karnataka had new heroes – B Akhil, NC Ayyappa, Thilak Naydu (Provident Bangalore), Udit Patel, Bharat Chipli, Jonathan (Mangalore), J Arun Kumar, Vinay Kumar, David Johnson (Belgaum), Deepak Chougule, Robin Uthappa, Mansoor Ali Khan (Bangalore Brigadiers), Mayank Agarwal, Sunil Joshi (Davangere), KP Appanna, Ganesh Satish (Malnad), Aditya Sagar, KB Pawan (Mysore), Stuart Binny, Mithun Beerala (Bijapur). A few even got picked by IPL teams – Stuart Binny (was chosen by Mumbai Indians). J Arun Kumar went on to become the favourite of not just the public but the selectors as well.
He was chosen to be the Man of the Tournament. Provident Bangalore spearheaded by B Akhil went to lift the trophy while the Panthers finished second
Season 2 has now begun. And, yes, Belgaavi Panthers remain to be the favourites this season as well. However, a few of the key players are missing this time around. Vinay Kumar, Manish Pandey, B Akhil, Robin Uthappa are all in South Africa playing the Champions Trophy. Mangalore and Malnad are still struggling to make their presence felt. What is strange is that Bijapur Bulls, who were among the semi finalists last year have not had a good tournament so far.
New heroes are already emerging. Lets hope that KPL 2 throws spotlight at genuine players and they make this a platform to see themselves being picked by IPL teams.