India news February 4, 2012

Warriors management caught off guard


Hours before Sahara announced it was withdrawing from its association with the BCCI, its sponsorship of the Indian team and its ownership of the Pune Warriors IPL team, its cricketing brains trust - Sourav Ganguly, Allan Donald, Praveen Amre, Deep Dasgupta and Paddy Upton - and top Sahara executive Abhijit Sarkar were huddled in Upton's hotel room.

They were up till way past midnight putting together the list of players they wanted in the auction the next morning. Today, one of them, wearing a sullen look, said: "we could have got each and every one of them."

There had been camaraderie and chattiness among the IPL's expats on Friday morning when Donald met Stephen Fleming, Darren Lehmann and Ray Jennings at their Bangalore hotel. Ganguly had flown in from Australia on Friday afternoon, cutting short his television commentary stint, eager to dive into the auction and, his commentary colleagues said, to start playing again. In the evening, the Pune Warrior representatives took part in the franchise owners meeting without a hint of the disturbances to come.

In the management half of the Sahara camp, though, there had been a certain unease about the meetings and discussions that had been taking place between their bosses and senior BCCI officials. At the centre of the latest round of discussions was the Warriors' attempt to get a concession at the auction to compensate for the loss of Yuvraj Singh, their marquee player.

"The whole thing was happening for a while," a franchise official said. "We were trying to find out what options we had ahead of the auction. The BCCI was always going by the book. But we were asking for a concession in the case of Yuvraj, an exceptional case, one that could affect us for the next three years. What we were requesting was to consider it as an exceptional case and help us out."

The IPL would not budge. One of their governing council members said, "They wanted a $3.4m purse at the auction, how could we give them that? Would the other franchises have agreed?"

At his press conference in Mumbai, Sahara chairman Subrata Roy said he had spoken for the first and last time with BCCI president N Srinivasan in an attempt to settle the issue. There are of course two versions of what is a private conversation. The BCCI's version says that one of their biggest sponsors had issued them with an ultimatum. From Sahara's side comes word that their partners in cricket had held their ground and told Roy that, regardless of what Sahara intended to do, they were not going to change their mind.

What Sahara did eventually was to pull off a BCCI-style move on the BCCI itself. Unexpected, sudden, without warning, final. "This is a four-year-old's behaviour," one IPL official remarked angrily. This was actually cut from the BCCI's own cloth. An hour before the auction, Sahara terminated its "association" with the board, the Indian team and the IPL, and stole the headlines.

The lengthy statement that arrived on news desks left everyone in a state of shock - the Pune Warriors cricket staff included. Dasgupta was the man who broke the news to their auction team; Donald left rubbing his eyes in disbelief, Ganguly walked away from the door of the auction room in fury. "I know we were taking a tough stance," one Warriors official said, "but not this way. You are totally alienating yourself from the cricketing world. I do not know where it is going to lead us individually and Sahara as a company."

At the other side of the dispute, surprise is being cushioned by the comfort of paperwork. Or rather the lack of it. The BCCI says it awaits a formal notification from Sahara. IPL CEO Sundar Raman pointed out that it wasn't mandatory for the Pune Warriors to be at the auction. "We have not heard anything official - everything we know is from the media ... until we hear from Sahara, we cannot respond." Another IPL official said talk of new fixtures and an eight-team competition was "hypothetical … tomorrow they could turn up and play the first game". Until there is another turnaround settlement, though, that is as likely as the upcoming IPL season being litigation-free.

"It is out of our hands, whatever happens now," a Warriors official said. "It is not for us to worry about. It is up to the franchise's top brass to deal with it. We can only sit back and watch the developments."

At 11.30am on Saturday the Pune Warriors cricket management team left Bangalore. Donald and Upton met Roy's son Sushanto, who was to be part of the auction team, on the flight to Mumbai. Upton watched the entire Roy press conference standing at the back of the room. When it was over, Sushanto passed Upton on his way out and said: "Bye, Paddy".

A Pune Warriors official said, with a resigned look: "This is done for good. These guys are not coming back."

Nagraj Gollapudi is assistant editor and Sharda Ugra senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Vikram on February 7, 2012, 21:45 GMT

    @cricindia4life 1. It is a proven fact that BCCI has been rigid with their rules. The same rules applied to Mumbai Indians during the CL trophy... oh wait, it is NOT. 2. Running business? They signed the contract for 94 matches, but BCCI changed that to 74 matches later. You do not want business to be run similarly. 3. Childish behavior to ask for an even ground? If not, they should be given more purchasing power 4. Yes, it is only ethical to give away franchisees to those who also run the BCCI. In fact, that is a recommended business practice as well. I would pray for you with all my heart to not get into any sort of a business.

  • Vikram on February 7, 2012, 21:29 GMT

    Good that the Pune team also has a mental conditioning coach. Maybe they could lend him to the BCCI ;-)

  • Arjun on February 6, 2012, 16:46 GMT

    Everybody is all gaga over how BCCI got "slapped" in the face. But in my honest opinion, Sahara's behavior was not appropriate at all. 1. It's not fair for them to want extra money at the auction. Every franchise takes a risk of having their star players sustain injuries or illnesses. It's a business transaction and there's risk associated with it. You try to mitigate it by other means than asking for favors from the competitors. 2. Asking for a return on their purchase price because they played less games than promised - ridiculous behavior for a business. 3. Asking for an open auction when they stepped into the playing field - also childish behavior. You are late to the market, you have to live with the consequences. 4. As for their initial bid during IPL 1, we don't know why they didn't get it in the first place. For all we know, maybe BCCI was within its rights to not award Sahara a franchise then. 5. Warriors' staff was caught off-guard - at least let them know ahead of time.

  • Pritam on February 6, 2012, 15:49 GMT

    Why don't BCCI starts the same with ODI's ? That will be of more worth than T-20s.

  • Naveen on February 6, 2012, 13:43 GMT

    WELL DESERVED TREATEMENT for BCCI, although i have been supportive of BCCI on UDRS(Rules and limits).... I appreciate SAHARA's move to have kicked BCCI in the gut.

    Those greedy adminitrators need more than this, they need a death blow of sorts specially Indian Political class coming behind this body.

    SAHARA with the amount of money they are pumping into cricket can better spend it in bringing up other sports like Hockey and football in India.

    Given the state of Poor Run with Indian cricket on field, it will be very tough for BCCI to get the kind of Sponsors they would want. Also anybody looking to sponsor indian team will also be looking at big names retiring this year and it will be hard for them to get an mileage with them.

    So Good Luck BCCI, boy i owuld have loved much more powerful blow.

  • sachit on February 6, 2012, 13:11 GMT option left for the IPL is to replace Pune Warriors with a team from abroad, maybe Sidney Sixers. Come to think of it, didn't the ICL do that back in 2008 by having a lahore team in the mix?

  • Dummy4 on February 6, 2012, 11:55 GMT

    Is Pune going to play IPL 5?

  • Sakthi on February 6, 2012, 11:53 GMT

    BCCI will get a good and better sponsor now. So more money.

  • sabtain on February 6, 2012, 7:13 GMT

    Big Bash and Bangladeshi leagues are getting bigger, soon we might see IPL End, TV rating is almost finished now sponsers are leaving , wat's next Closure of IPL and focus on Test cricket to bring India back on track and save NRI's from embarracement

  • Ashok on February 5, 2012, 16:21 GMT

    Sad as it may sound, the BCCI & IPL behaviour towards Sahara was arrogant & irresponsible. In fact the pulling out of Sahara from BCCI & going in a different direction sounds so much better for the Cricket game as well as for the Villages of India. They will be opening much needed 10 cricket camps, each focussing at different age group & type of people involved. BCCI rarely focussed on this aspect. BCCI was just interested in their profits & bottom line. The profits acquired from Cricket game were rarely put back into bettering the game of Cricket.BCCI could have built camps with pitches & conditions simulating those in England & Australia. This would have equiped the Indian team to put up a better show in England & Australia than a white washed 4-0 defeat.Sahara's new directions may lead to such camps too + educating the villagers as well as providing them with safe drinking water & a host of other noble objectives. I wish Sahara best of luck in their new & visionary goals.

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