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The 24 year old who owns an IPL team

By Haresh Pandya
Last updated on: April 14, 2016 18:05 IST
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'Twenty20 cricket can be a lottery at times, but I think we'll definitely reach the semifinals.'

Keshav Bansal

IMAGE: Gujarat Lions owner Keshav Bansal. Photograph: Hitesh Harisinghani/

Keshav Bansal is just 24. Director of the mobile handset maker Intex Technologies India Limited, Keshav is the youngest owner of an Indian Premier League franchise -- the Gujarat Lions.

Gujarat Lions, based in Rajkot, and Pune's Rising Pune Supergiants are the two new franchises in the IPL, replacing suspended teams the Chennai Super Kings and the Rajasthan Royals, for two years.

The Pune franchise was bought by Kolkata tycoon Sanjiv Goenka's company New Rising, while the Rajkot bid was won by the Bansal-owned Intex Mobiles.

Keshav is candid, down-to-earth, humble and transparent. A fitness freak, he could easily be mistaken for a player when he is moving with the Gujarat Lions in the team's orange and blue flannels.

The ambitious young man opened up to Haresh Pandya during a freewheeling chat at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot, revealing why he invested so much money in an IPL team and why he would have loved Virat Kohli to play for his side.

What made you own an IPL team?

Though I don't play cricket, it has always fascinated me. I follow it as passionately as millions others in India do.

I was keen that Intex entered into a long-term sponsorship -- as one of the on ground sponsors -- with the BCCI. Just like the IPL, the target audience of Intex Technologies is also the younger generation.

Luckily, the response from the BCCI was encouraging. It didn't take me much to convince my father Narendra Bansal, the chairman and managing director of the company, about this. He has never doubted my abilities. So this is how we're into the IPL.

Why did you choose Gujarat? Any particular reason?

My mother belongs to Gujarat, so I've been emotionally attached to the vibrant state. There is also a huge market for Intex in Gujarat. So it's a combination of several factors actually, not just one or two.

You have chosen Rajkot as your team's headquarters, but named it the Gujarat Lions. Why so?

As you know, Rajkot is the only centre in Gujarat that has a world-class cricket stadium right now. Baroda had never had one. The Sardar Patel Gujarat Stadium in Ahmedabad has been dismantled to construct a new one.

But even if we had selected a different headquarters the name of the franchise would have remained the same.

The message we want to convey is that the team belongs to all of Gujarat and not to a particular place.

As for the lions, they are the pride of Gujarat and one of its main identities. Gujarat is the only home of the rare Asiatic lion. So we came to a conclusion that there couldn't be a better name for the team than Gujarat Lions.

Keshav Bansal

IMAGE: Gujarat Lions owner Keshav Bansal makes a bid for a player during the IPL Players Auction in February. Photograph: BCCI

Sounds interesting. And what is the logic behind the team's orange colours?

They are among my favourite colours. Orange is naturally associated with lions. It also symbolises flames and passion, qualities that are vital for a cohesive, winning, unit.

Realistically and objectively, how do you rate the Gujarat Lions compared to the other IPL teams?

We are a strong team, a brilliant mix of youth and experience. I think we are quite capable of giving any team a good run for its money.

I know Twenty20 cricket can be a lottery at times, but I think we'll definitely reach the semifinals.

Of course, I'd love to see the Gujarat Lions not only make the final, but actually win IPL 2016.

Is there any player who you think is your trump card?

For me, all players are equal, all are important. I can't single out a particular player and say he is our trump card.

We have an array of exciting players. In batting, we have Brendon MuCullum, Aaron Finch, Suresh Raina and Dwayne Smith who can change the complexion of any match in a jiffy with their aggressive batting and savage hitting.

In fast bowling we've Dale Steyn, Dhawal Kulkarni, Praveen Kumar and Pradeep Sangwan.

We've the most experienced spinner in the ageless Pravin Tambe. Ravindra Jadeja is a proven left-arm spinner and useful bat down the order.

Dwayne Bravo and James Faulkner are also among the leading allrounders. Our Dinesh Karthik is a smart wicket-keeper and competent batsman.

The list just goes on and on.

Any player you would have loved to have him in your team?

Virat Kohli. He is one of those players everyone wants to have in his team. But I can tell you we've managed to get all those players we wanted in our team. I'm really happy with the Gujarat Lions squad.

IMAGE: The Gujarat Lions players during a practice session in Rajkot. Photograph: BCCI

Gujarat lays so much emphasis on culture and tradition. Would people get to see some of that when the Gujarat Lions play in Rajkot?

We've kept the rich Gujarati culture and tradition in mind while preparing our team's theme song. If you see the video, you'll find glimpses of Gujarat's culture and tradition, including the garba raas.

But then we've to keep in mind the global television audience, and so we've to follow the norms and trends of the IPL.

Does your family have any links with cricket?

No, nobody in my family has ever played any sort of serious cricket or has had any link with the game.

But yes, like most Indian families, mine also follows cricket with keen interest. We support and cheer the national team.

What sports do you play?

I play squash and do a lot of swimming. And I practise yoga. I also like sky diving and scuba diving.

Besides cricket, I avidly follow soccer, tennis and table tennis. I am a sports lover like any youngster my age.

Have you planned anything special for the future after the Gujarat Lions' two-year stint with the IPL comes to an end?

It's too early to say. Right now, my focus is how the Gujarat Lions perform in the ongoing IPL. But I am a businessman and I want take Intex to greater heights of success at the international level.

Of course, I'd definitely like to have a longer innings for the Gujarat Lions in the IPL.

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Haresh Pandya