Lalit Modi might have cleared the way for Andrew Flintoff to be bought by Chennai Super Kings in the 2009 IPL auction by convincing Rajasthan Royals to retain the contract of former Pakistan fast bowler Sohail Tanvir, correspondence from that period has indicated. By retaining Tanvir, Royals were left with a reduced purse at the auction and were unable to match Super Kings' bids for Flintoff.
Modi, the former IPL commissioner, told CNN IBN, an Indian news channel, that the sale of Flintoff to Super Kings had been manipulated. "That onus was on me and as chairman I should have not allowed that to happen then," Modi said. "I was arm-twisted to allow Andrew Flintoff to go to Chennai Super Kings. I'm to blame for that. It's a fact."
However, Modi did not reveal how he arranged for Super Kings to buy Flintoff but emails between him and N Srinivasan - the managing director of India Cements, who own Chennai Super Kings, the BCCI secretary at the time and now its president - appear to show that Modi had cleared the way. The emails - which ESPNcricinfo has seen - were written on February 4, 2009, two days before the auction.
"What a nightmare to convince them not to terminate tanveer and also not to take flintoff," Modi wrote. "Warne went of [sic] the handle. But have managed it by using stick and carrot strategy. Thus they have [$]1.875 [million] only. Much love Lalit." Srinivasan's reply later the same day reads: "Thanks. You are most sweet. Srini." The existence of the emails was first reported by CNN-IBN in September, 2010.
Super Kings had been favourites to sign Flintoff at the 2009 auction because they were the only franchise to have the whole $2 million to spend. They had originally retained Chamara Kapugedera, the Sri Lanka batsman, for $150,000, but were later given permission to cancel his contract, restoring their full purse.
Flintoff was sold for $1.55 million at the auction in Goa, making him the most expensive player at the time alongside Kevin Pietersen. Mumbai Indians had, by buying JP Duminy for $950,000, effectively ruled themselves out of the bidding for Flintoff, and Royal Challengers Bangalore did not enter the bidding for him at all. Royals tried to keep pace, but after buying Shaun Tait for $375,000, they had only $1.5 million left, and Super Kings eventually got him.
The participation of Pakistan players in the 2009 IPL was in doubt because of the Mumbai terror attacks in November 2008 and, a day after the above email exchange, six Pakistan players had their contracts terminated. But four other contracts, including Tanvir's, were only "suspended", with the affected teams allowed to sign replacements outside of the auction. If Royals had terminated Tanvir's contract instead, the team would have had an extra slot for a player in the auction and their full purse.
The BCCI has always maintained that the auction was free of collusion. Board and IPL officials told ESPNcricinfo that they did not wish to comment on Modi's interview, but Srinivasan told PTI that while he had not watched the interview, he could state that "there is absolutely no substance or truth in what he is saying. He [Modi] is talking about 2009 auctions and this is 2012. If what he is saying is true, then why didn't he speak out earlier?"
Tariq Engineer is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo