India news March 27, 2014

BCCI points to IPL players' plight

Amol Karhadkar and Nagraj Gollapudi

The Supreme Court's googly, as it were, to the BCCI in the form of three proposals has thrown the board into a state of "uncertainty", with the mooted suspension of Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals causing the most concern. While there has been no indication of a coordinated meeting of senior officials, it is understood that the board's response to the court on Friday will be to point out that suspending two IPL teams will most affect the players.

It is also expected to oppose the proposal of an "outsider" to head the BCCI - the court suggested the name of Sunil Gavaskar - by pointing to the number of former players in the board hierarchy.

"No one anticipated the court's proposal to suspend the two teams," a senior board official said. "The court has given the BCCI very little time to respond. I don't think the BCCI members can meet for certain in one place before tomorrow morning, so the only way is to set up a teleconference."

The biggest setback for the IPL, he said, was not BCCI president N Srinivasan's status or possible replacement but a curtailed IPL with fewer teams. The BCCI's arguments in court on Friday are therefore likely to centre on its belief that it would be "virtually impossible" to conduct the IPL with just six teams. That, it is felt, would affect logistics and, more importantly, the players.

"It would be really difficult to redraw plans, especially considering that the tournament is supposed to start within three weeks. The logistical and financial problems can, however, be solved, but what can be done about the players? It would be unfair on almost all of the 50-odd players from these two teams to be deprived, for no fault of theirs, of the opportunity to play the tournament and earn their livelihood," the board member said.

A six-team IPL, with its existing home-and-away format followed by four games in the knockout stage, will bring the number of matches down to 34 from 60. That will have a knock-on effect on broadcasters and sponsors, and the BCCI's concern will be how to compensate them, given that the long-term contracts are based on 60-match seasons. Neither PepsiCo India, the league's title sponsors, nor Multi Screen Media Pvt Ltd, parent company of host broadcaster Max, were willing to comment.

On the issue of an interim or replacement president, the board is likely to seek a change in the court's stated criterion - a "seasoned or respected cricketer" - to one more aligned to its own eligibility rules. "For Gavaskar to be appointed as the board chief, as per the Supreme Court directive, we will require an amendment to the BCCI constitution. We may request the court to appoint a candidate who fulfills the eligibility criteria set for the post of the president [by the constitution]."

The BCCI's rules state that anyone acceding to the president's post must have been a past or present office-bearer and vice-president, and have attended at least two BCCI AGMs.

In any case, the board has not accepted that Srinivasan will be ousted; rather, they feel he is best placed to decide on his future. "It is tough call," an official said. "It all depends on Srinivasan now: if he wants to go himself or if he wants to stick to his decision of telling the court that he is willing to step aside pending a time-bound probe. The BCCI on its own cannot force Srinivasan to resign. But we will have to wait for the judges to take a final decision tomorrow."