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Confused BCCI Responsible For Mess In The IPL

Updated: December 25, 2010 10:37 am

Being too clever and always on the offensive does not always pay and BCCI is learning this the hard way. Perhaps the richest sports federation in the country and richest cricket board in the world, BCCI has lived in its own world, broking no interference or opposition from any body is now facing not only opposition from the people whom it struck off from its role call with impunity but also is having difficulty to get things going for its show case baby IPL 4.

                Having got rid of its former poster boy Lalit Modi, Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) went for the kill and dismissed two prominent teams–Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab from the Indian Premier League (IPL) on their alleged charges that ownership rights of these clubs have been tampered. However, it is well know that these teams were singled out as their owners were perceived to be close to Lalit Modi.

                The BCCI top brass was rather rattled when their authority was challenged by Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab, who moved the court and both the teams got the stay. Rajasthan case went to arbitration. The arbitrator justice BN Srikrishna, granted a six-week stay on the expulsion and restored all of Rajasthan’s rights under the franchise agreement, including the right to take part in the player auction.

                Justice Srikrishna, also observed that prima facie termination of Royals’ agreement was illegal. In the King XI case, Bombay High Court also stayed the termination of the IPL franchise’s agreement with Justice SJ Vazifdar remarking that going by the documents, Kings XI had “made out a strong case”. The dispute will now again go before a new arbitrator–earlier arbitrator Justice BN Srikrishna having rescued himself–but as of now Kings XI will be able to participate in the player’s auction in January.

                Court directed Kings XI to furnish bank guarantee of $18 million for the players, which it might pick up in the auction and of $3.5 million for BCCI within one month. With both the teams back in the reckoning, uncertainty has gripped the IPL as this scenario was not taken into account by the cash-rich BCCI, because no body had so far taken the bull (BCCI) by the horns. And the plan to have eight teams in IPL has gone hay wire.

                Having announced that the fourth edition of the IPL will begin in the first week of April 2011, six days after the World Cup, BCCI now finds itself in a fix. They thought that dismissal of Rajasthan Royal and Kings XI will pave the way for two new teams Kochi and Pune and the league will continue with eight teams.

                The Board now realises that it is easier said than done. It had to threaten and cajole the Kochi owners to set their house in order or be ready for the sack. Kochi’s inclusion resulted in the upheaval in the IPL, which shook the board and led to the dismissal of Lalit Modi and removal of Shashi Tharoor from the union government.

                Soon after the Kochi owners got embroiled in bitter infighting and seven months after becoming the second-most expensive side with a bid of Rs 1533.33 crore, it was on the verge of being thrown out of the event. The Board gave three lifelines to the Kochi owners and finally, cleared the faction-ridden Kochi franchise to play in the IPL. But the owners of the beleaguered franchise made a last-ditch attempt to save the outfit by reaching a compromise.

                Earlier, the Kochi investors had written to the BCCI informing that they will like to withdraw from the IPL. This letter was sent after the Board gave a termination notice of 30 days to them to settle their internal disputes regarding the shareholding pattern.

                The BCCI watchers were surprised that why the board was so lenient towards Kochi. Why Rajasthan Royal and Punjab team owners were not given such a long rope to plead or put forth their case. Why these two teams, who have been the founders of the IPL were brushed aside so abruptly.

                “If despite Kochi’s unwillingness, BCCI went out of its way to give them sufficient period to sort out their internal mess, why it was in tearing hurry to terminate Rajasthan and Punjab’s contract” is the question being asked. “Why pick and choose, all the (original) eight teams were close to Lalit Modi, every body at that time wanted to be in his good book, but after his fall, BCCI has adopted a selective discriminatory policy,” a source said. “By terminating Rajasthan and Punjab teams, BCCI wanted to send a strong signal to the Modi supporters but the move seems to have boomeranged at least for the time being,” he added.

                Kochi’s induction was rectified at the IPL governing council’s meeting in Mumbai, which had been specially convened to scrutinise the consortium’s last-minute arrangements to its shareholding pattern last week. “The IPL governing council confirmed that the Kochi franchisee had satisfactorily responded to the notice issued to them by the BCCI and decided that the franchisee would play in the IPL from 2011 onwards,” the BCCI secretary, Mr N Srinivasan, said after the two-hour-long meeting with a few Kochi owners.

                Under the new arrangement, the 26 per cent sweat equity given to the promoters Rendezvous Sports World Pvt Ltd has been reduced to 10 per cent. That 16 per cent has been distributed equally to firms Anchor Earth, Rosy Blue Diamond, Film Wave and Parinee Developers and Kerala-based businessman Vivek Venugopal. The investors in the consortium–Anchor Earth, Parinee Developers, Rosy Blue and Film Wave–hold 74 per cent of the equity. The remaining 26 per cent were with the Gaikwad family–Shailendra, his brother Ravi and their parents all part of Rendezvous Sports World–as free equity for services rendered while bidding. It is this 26 per cent which became a bone of contention among the stakeholders as the investors were in no mood to give free equity to the Gaikwad family.

                The Gaikwads, were initially reluctant to part with the equity but now agreed to put an end to the squabbling which threatens the very existence of the team. With these dramatic developments the BCCI’s plan to hold the IPL as scheduled is in trouble because there is confusion over the number of teams eligible for the new Edition. BCCI insist that IPL 4 will have eight teams–the hastily assembled Kochi along with Sahara Group’s Pune-based team as replacements for the expelled sides–but the decision in favour of the Royals has created more uncertainty.

                Initially, when Lalit Modi was at the helm there was a move of more teams (10) and more matches. Even as late in September, the BCCI had chalked out an IPL schedule involving ten teams and 74 matches with play-offs but within a month, it terminated the Rajasthan Royals and King’s XI Punjab contracts and decided to eight team format. But the court ruling in favour of Rajasthan disturbed their move. Also BCCI will have to go ahead with auctions of the fresh set of player as the three-year contracts had expired unless the teams are decided the players cannot be picked. Under the original franchise agreements, player contracts were valid only for three years with the majority of players going into the central auction pool before the fourth season. The auction was first slated in August and later in November, but it now is likely to be in January 2011.

                BCCI president Shashank Manohar, told Cricinfo, “An auction can take place at any time–all that has to be ensured is that players are available and signed on seven days before the first game.” As per the reports most of the teams are not keen to retain all their players has added to the confusion. And as the time ticks away the team owners will find it tough to get their squads together.

                What is creating panic in the BCCI is the thought of having ten-team league? That will cut into its revenue and profit particularly from television rights sales. The hopes of the six original teams to make some profit in this edition will be seriously compromised, if numbers of squads are more in the IPL this fourth edition. If 10 teams are on board, it will be tough to adjust the extra matches.

                Adding salt to the BCCI’s wounds was Rajasthan Royals announcement of their team and plan for the new edition of the league. They have retained their captain Shane Warne and Australian all-rounder Shane Watson and announced that they were in negotiations with some leading Indian players, they wish to have them in their squad.

                Each franchisee is allowed to retain up to four players, of which no more than three can be Indian. The retained players must have been part of the franchise’s registered squads for the 2010 season. “We are extremely happy to have signed on Shane Warne and Shane Watson,” Raghu Iyer, the Rajasthan Spokesman, was quoted as saying: “Both of them have been an important part of the Royals. Watson was the Player of the Tournament in the first season and Warne’s leadership skills are what everybody talks about.”

                Warne-led Rajasthan to an unlikely title in 2008, the IPL’s first season. He was the league’s second highest wicket-taker, with 19 wickets at an average of 21.26, while Watson scored 472 runs at an average of 47.20 and a strike-rate of 151.76, and also took 17 wickets at an average of 22.52. Both players had expressed their disappointment after Rajasthan were expelled from the IPL on October 10 by the BCCI. Rajasthan will lose $1.8 million per year from the auction pool for the first player retained and $1.3 million per year for the second player, Cricinfo reported. Warne and Shane Watson’s decision to stay put with Rajasthan Royals contradicts the BCCI’s assertion, even if Rajasthan was allowed to participate in the auction, there was no guarantee the players they picked would be willing to enter into contracts with it.

                There is another issue which BCCI will have to sort out before the auctions and that relates to the Pakistani players. Last year though many Pakistanis were in the auction but none was picked up which led to massive uproar in that country. It is said that International Cricket Council (ICC) has advised the BCCI not to include any Pakistani player in the auction till the match/spot fixing inquiry is over.

                In the circumstances, the IPL governing council is likely to heed to the advice of the ICC and not allow Pakistani players. The Pakistan media is already agog with the speculations that country’s players will not be allowed to play in the league this time too. Pakistan players took part in the first IPL but were not allowed to be a part of the team in the second or the third IPL. Some of those, who had participated in the IPL have been Shahid Afrid, Misbah-ul-Haq, Umar Gul, Abdul Razzaq, Kamran Akmal and Sohail Tanveer.

                “Already India has done enough harm to Pakistan Cricket and by not allowing the Pakistani players to play in the IPL, it is clear that BCCI does not wish Pakistani cricket well,” was a response of that country’s media. BCCI in its bid to snuff out any challenge to its authority has created more problems for itself. If the IPL 4 is in mess, it is due to confusion in the BCCI. IPL, the showcase event, once being compared with the English Premier League(EPL) is suddenly is battling to retain its glamour, aura and glitz. It remains to be seen, whether BCCI will let it survive or will kill it just to spite Lalit Modi.

                BCCI with rich history and tradition should be more magnanimous in its attitude, but it seems to have become a vindictive body which is not good for its own health but also for Game.


By Harpal Singh Bedi



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