The IPL mess April 24, 2010

'I won't quit, let them remove me'

There is no sign of a compromise between Lalit Modi and the BCCI over the IPL with a day to go for the crucial IPL governing council meeting. On Saturday, the BCCI top leadership was huddled in a series of meetings planning their strategy for Monday; by the evening Modi ended his silence of several days by sending out a message through his Twitter feed that he would not be backing down in what he called a "trial by media".

Adding to the complexity of the situation were the statements of support for Modi from franchise owners, whose role in resolving the crisis - by way of compatibility with any future leadership - would be crucial.

Amid the shadow-boxing and unstated positions was the question of how Sharad Pawar - officially the ICC's president-elect but de facto still the most powerful man in Indian cricket - would defuse a crisis that has seen his family and that of his party and cabinet colleague Praful Patel dragged in. There were reports that Pawar was working on a compromise formula that would see Modi exit the IPL without being disgraced but it is not clear whether such a deal would stand scrutiny from those more hostile to Modi both within the board and - given Pawar's political avatar - in the public sphere.

On record, the most dramatic statements were from Modi, who broke a five-day silence by coming out on Twitter. "People pressurising me to resign - I can tell you will not happen. Let them remove me then," he tweeted. "Truth will prevail soon. Trial by media and no chance to present the facts is like the wild west.

"Wait for the IPL to finish," he said, "I will reveal the men who have tried to bring disrepute to the game and how we stopped them from doing it."

His messages came a day after the IPL's awards ceremony, where the BCCI's top two officials were missing, and a day before the tournament final. On Friday night, his speech at the awards ceremony was interpreted as a sort of farewell speech and the tone continued in Saturday's tweets. "What we have done has been there for all of you to see for the past 4 years. No one can take that away."

The men who would take that away spent the day first at the BCCI headquarters and later, reportedly, at a city hotel trying to sort out the legal, administrative and political issues. The IPL's governing council will meet formally on Monday morning - BCCI president Shashank Manohar confirmed the meeting would go ahead as scheduled - to discuss the issue but they would like a plan in place by then.

Speculation has begun on who will replace Modi as IPL chairman, with Manohar a clear front-runner for a role in an overseeing capacity, and Ravi Shastri, the former India all-rounder, an outside bet for an executive position. Those familiar with the situation suggest that Manohar's name will be nominated for the chairman's position as soon as a consensus is taken on Modi.

"Shashank Manohar should be the first choice," one of the IPL governing council members told Cricinfo. "In whatever capacity he is willing to serve, he is the ideal replacement."

Punters had already tipped Manohar as a favourite for interim chairman of the IPL as Modi's grip over the IPL weakened by the minute in the last week over numerous allegations that have federal agencies like the Income-Tax department and the Enforcement Directorate investigating all aspects of the league's operations.

Unlike the high profile that Modi has maintained, Manohar is low key, almost austere and inscrutable. A lawyer by profession, he mostly operates from his hometown of Nagpur. His biggest strengths are his simplicity and discipline - and, perhaps, his reluctance to entertain the media. "He is honest and has no allegiance to anyone else. Also his untainted image is necessary for the board at the moment," said the source.

But not everyone is entirely sure if Manohar's clean image by itself makes him a suitable choice. "A large part of working in the IPL is you are dealing with team owners who are not used to taking no for an answer," a franchise official said. "You need somebody who is used to dealing with the corporate world. People who works for only the BCCI or for himself like Shashank Manohar, who is a lawyer, is used to diktats and not used to dealing with industry bosses. If you don't understand their problems then there will be huge differences."

A better choice, according to the official, would be Shastri, whose cricketing background coupled with his diversified interests in the corporate field make him a good proposition. Shastri has logged in more than a decade in the corporate industry in areas such as television, and event management. "The IPL sits on a huge bridge between industry and cricket. Being a man who has his own event management company, knows the showbiz, has worked on both sides, Shastri is not a bad choice. That in this case could prove to be a vital difference," the franchise official pointed out.

The franchises are a big factor in this issue and on Saturday there was some support for Modi, who has been the target of what some have called a witch-hunt, from two franchise owners. Vijay Mallya, the owner of the Bangalore franchise, met Pawar and is believed to have pleaded Modi's case. "Modi must be given an opportunity at some point of time to explain himself. This whole controversy has become an unnecessary toofan (storm). Yes, there may be some questions about the way in which IPL runs. Clearly, some governing council members may not be happy. Let all that be properly investigated," Mallya said after the meeting.

Also on Saturday, the actress Preity Zinta, a co-owner of the Punjab franchise, said Modi has been unfairly singled out and deserved credit for making the IPL what it is. Her comments echoed those of Jay Mehta, the co-owner of the Kolkata franchise, on Friday; he said, "To make one person the fall guy for this is unfortunate". There were also tweets from Shah Rukh Khan and Shilpa Shetty, stakeholders in the Kolkata and Jaipur franchises, supporting Modi.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

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