Now, the nattily dressed Modi finds himself at the centre of a diplomatic battle, after an IPL auction last month ended with no bids for 11 Pakistanis amid fears they could have visa problems following tensions after the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
A heated exchange ensued between the two nuclear-armed rivals who have often played cricket to better relations.
But it was commerce that brought cricketers together in the first place, said Sundar Raman, chief executive of IPL.
"It's not IPL's remit to look at geopolitical ramifications. We just hope people will approach this with greater maturity and understand it's just a game of cricket," he said.