IPL news April 1, 2014

Discussion or 'courtesy call'?

Sunil Gavaskar will hold his first media conference as the BCCI president - IPL in Dubai on Wednesday. There was some confusion ahead of that formal interaction, however, and possibly not of Gavaskar's making, emanating from a BCCI statement that said he had briefed franchises and held a discussion with them on Monday.

Franchises contacted by ESPNcricinfo denied there was any meeting held, except for a "courtesy" conference call in which Gavaskar and IPL chairman Ranjib Biswal spoke briefly.

"Mr Sunil Gavaskar, Interim President, BCCI - IPL, had a discussion with the franchises on Pepsi IPL 2014, earlier today," Monday's statement said. "He briefed them on the preparations for the 2014 season. The franchises shared their views and extended their support and cooperation for a successful Pepsi IPL 2014."

Five franchises said nothing of this sort had happened. "They are making it look like there was a meeting," one franchise head said. "There was a conference call that Gavaskar and Biswal had with franchises. It was a courtesy call and nothing else."

"I don't know of any meeting or any call," a co-owner of another franchise said.

It is understood, however, that Gavaskar has begun the process of talking to the owners separately. The chief executive of another franchise confirmed that his team's owner had spoken with Gavaskar.

Franchise officials indicated that Gavaskar, while he was keen to understand the kind of changes they wanted, was indirectly trying to assess their opinion of Sundar Raman, the IPL chief operating officer. "That call was almost hinting at what needs to be done with Sundar Raman," the franchise head said.

Gavaskar was acting on the instructions of the Supreme Court, which last week, while giving him charge of the BCCI's IPL functions, had asked him to work out whether he wanted the services of Raman, the de facto head of the tournament.

Raman, an advertising professional, had been hired by IPL founder-chairman Lalit Modi to be his right-hand man when the tournament started. After Modi's expulsion in 2010, Raman grew equally close to BCCI president N Srinivasan, whose ouster from the BCCI last week called Raman's position into question.

Raman has never been a favourite among franchise officials but they acknowledge he is indispensable to the tournament. "He has been there right from the beginning of the IPL," the franchise head said. "So he has grown into the manager who has made himself indispensable. The fear is if he goes, it might be more trouble than him being there. So let him at least be there."

In fact officials say the tournament's smooth running will minimise the scope for Gavaskar to make any difference. "This is too short a time for anybody to make an impact," the franchise owner said. "At the end of day IMG run the league operationally. IPL officials [the BCCI] have barely any role to play other than sending emails. Otherwise, ticketing, accreditations, matches, appointments of the officials is managed by IMG. So as far as leadership goes, there is hardly anything anyone can do."

The franchise executive said the one thing he could expect of Gavaskar was to help the IPL announce the final schedule for the second phase of the tournament. "Although the BCCI indicated that the second phase of the IPL would be played in India, we are still are waiting for the schedule," he said. "We can then plan our stuff and convince sponsors."

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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