Brijesh Patel brought in as replacement May 6, 2008

Charu Sharma removed as Bangalore's CEO

Charu Sharma's association with the Bangalore Royal Challengers has come to an end (file photo) © AFP

The Bangalore Royal Challengers' poor run in the IPL has claimed its first victim with the franchise sacking Charu Sharma, their CEO, holding him responsible for the team's poor performance in the Twenty20 tournament's inaugural season. Sharma has been replaced by Brijesh Patel, the former India Test player and secretary of the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA), which runs the game in the franchise's home city.

The development came a day after Bangalore, the IPL's second-most expensive franchise, were comprehensively beaten on their home ground by Kings XI Punjab, their fifth defeat in the competition. They currently lie second from bottom in the points table after showing patchy form through the tournament.

A Royal Challengers team spokesperson said Sharma, a well-known television professional and former national diving champion, stepped down due to "personal reasons" but a source closely associated with the development told Cricinfo he was asked to leave by Vijay Mallya, the chairman of United Spirits Limited, the liquor company that owns the team.

Sharma was not available for comment but it's learnt he was told categorically on Tuesday afternoon that he would have to leave. "Charu can't go out to bat or bowl for the team so, obviously, the owner wants to send a strong message after the string of defeats. This is clearly a symbolic gesture but unfortunately, the CEO has been made the scapegoat," the sources said.

The news seemed to have surprised many of the players in the Bangalore team, who reached Kolkata on Tuesday night. "It's been shocking, and so early in the tournament," a senior player told Cricinfo. "There are still seven matches to go, and we could have clawed back. I just hope this doesn't put additional pressure on the team now because the first question a team-mate asked on hearing about this development was: Who's next?"

The team's spokesperson, however, dismissed speculation that Venkatesh Prasad, the team coach, was on his way out too, though he said Patel would be part of the team management for their next match against the Knight Riders in Kolkata on Thursday.

Mallya is learnt to have been extremely upset on Monday night after he watched his team, led by Rahul Dravid, the former India captain, lose their fifth match. Mallya bought the franchise from the IPL council with a bid of US$ 111.6 million and then faced a barrage of criticism after the players' auction where Dravid took the lead in picking a squad - including South Africa's Jacques Kallis and India's Wasim Jaffer - that has since been tagged as a Test XI.

Curiously, Patel, the new CEO, and Mallya were on the opposite sides of a bitterly fought election to the general body of the KSCA, in which Mallya was backing Srikantadatta Wadiyar for the president's post against Gundappa Viswanath, the former Test batsman who was supported by Patel. Though Wadiyar won, Patel, known for his organisational skills, managed to hold on to the secretary's post.

Ajay Shankar is deputy editor of Cricinfo in Bangalore