BCCI calls Sahara withdrawal 'unfortunate'
The BCCI has said it was "unfortunate" that Sahara India Parivar had chosen to withdraw their ownership of the Pune Warriors IPL franchise, as well as their sponsorship of the Indian team. However, Rajeev Shukla, the IPL chairman, and one of the BCCI vice-presidents, said that the board needed a formal intimation in writing from Sahara before they could decide on a future course of action.
The Sahara decision, which was made public through a media release, caught everyone, including the BCCI unawares. The announcement of their decision came an hour before the IPL player auction was set to commence in Bangalore.
"It is unfortunate," Shukla said at the end of the bidding for the marquee players. "[But] unless we get something in writing then only we will be reacting. If they want it [their contract] terminated, they want to withdraw [from the IPL], then we will decide [once we get official confirmation]," Shukla said.
Officials from the Warriors were not present at the auction either, but Sundar Raman, the IPL chief executive, made it clear that they had the right to stay away. "There is no action that is required to be taken because it is not mandatory for them to sit in the auction," Raman said. "Pune Warriors are there or not there is not communicated to us still. As the situation arises we would respond to it.
In a statement released to the press earlier today, Sushanto Roy, the managing director of Sahara Adventure Sports Limited, said that "it was an emotional decision for us to start this sponsorship but our emotions were never appreciated and many genuine situations, were not given due consideration at all."
Roy listed a slew of instances in which he felt Sahara's requests were not entertained by the BCCI, most of which concerned the IPL. Among them was their disqualification from bidding for a franchise in 2008 and their attempts to reduce the franchise fee when the number of matches was cut down from 94 to 74 for the 2011 IPL. Their most recent concern was over the availability of Yuvraj Singh, the Pune captain, who is undergoing treatment for a non-malignant tumour in his lungs and will not be able to participate in the fifth season,
According to the BCCI, Sahara wanted the amount of Yuvraj's contact added to their auction purse, giving them US$3.4 million in total, but the IPL was not prepared to do that. "The rules are very clear and are consistent with previous seasons: Sahara Adventure Sports Limited may take a replacement following the 2012 Auction," the BCCI said in a statement of its own. "Additionally, the trading window will re-open on February 6 and Sahara Adventure Sports Limited will then have a further opportunity to take new players."
Raman said it would be inappropriate on the IPL's part to respond without getting anything in writing from Sahara. "The fact they chose not participate in the auction and having sent a press release is indeed unfortunate. Because as a federation they should have informed us of their concerns which if they wanted to discontinue their association officially in writing, which has not happened."
According to Raman, Sahara could terminate the contract only after "invoking" the relevant clause stated in the franchise agreement. "The contract terms is very clear as far as the franchise agreement is concerned and they need to invoke under the termination clause is as per the contract. We will be able to respond only then. Today we are reacting to something that has been issued as a press release, which is something, as the chairman said without getting any official intimation."
However, Raman did not shy away from taking a shot at Sahara, who he said were trying to bend the rules to suit their needs. "The truth is also they had requested flexibility and amendments to the regulations which suited them, and which was, in the opinion of the IPL, unfair to the eight other franchises," Raman said. "The IPL was not prepared to grant an exception to one franchise to be sitting in the auction room with a much higher purse than every other franchise as that defeats the purpose of the regulation."
When asked if the BCCI might have been a little flexible with Sahara given that they have enjoyed a long-standing relationship for more than decade, Raman said that such a move would have been to the detriment of the other eight franchises. "We live with the franchises on a day-to-day basis. We have to be fair to everyone. You look around and ask the other franchises if that would've been fair for them [Warriors] to be allowed to add the additional auction purse and see the response."
Officials from Kolkata Knight Riders and Chennai Super Kings said they had no comment as the regulator [of the IPL] was the right entity to deal with the matter.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo