Kochi franchise co-owner denies team sale rumours

Brad Hodge celebrates dismissing Pinal Shah AFP

Mehul Shah, one of the co-owners of Kochi Tuskers Kerala, has denied reports that the IPL franchise is up for sale after a disappointing first season in which they finished eighth in the ten-team league. Shah, a director of the Anchor group, the largest shareholder in the consortium, told ESPNcricinfo that "we are not selling the team."

However, Daily News and Analysis reported another owner claiming the team is up for sale, potentially signalling a split in team ownership, something that has dogged the franchise since its inception.

The consortium bought the Kochi franchise last year for US$ 333.33 million, three times the highest price paid for any of the first eight franchises, and was always going to struggle to make money, given the size of the franchise fee. The group's problems were then compounded by off-the-field issues that affected their revenues. Ticket sales at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi suffered because of a dispute between the owners and the local municipal authorities over taxes. The Kerala Cricket Association's proposed international stadium, which would have been the franchise's new home, was denied building permission by the central government on environment grounds.

The team's performances in the IPL were lacklustre as well, further affecting attendance. They won just six of their 14 games, and finished ahead of only two teams - fellow newcomers Pune Warriors and Delhi Daredevils. They also struggled to attract major sponsors, in contrast to some of the other teams in the league.

Shah told Gulf News the team is exploring the possibility of playing a few exhibition games in the Gulf region as a way of tapping into the large number of expats there, from Kerala.