The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on Monday awarded Air Sahara, part of the Sahara India corporation, the sponsorship rights of the Indian team.

Air Sahara has been confirmed to have signed a four-year, $70 million deal that will come into effect January 1, 2006. This deal is set to raise the BCCI's net worth to $550 million once all the tenders, advertising and sponsorship deals are finalised. The previous sponsorship deal with BCCI had been struck by Sahara India Parivar for $52 million.

Sahara's logo will be carried on the chest and leading arm of each Indian jersey. Sponsorships for the other arm and individual kits remain open for bidding. Lalit Modi, the BCCI vice-president, has stated that the board would name the kit sponsor on December 23 in Mumbai.

The sponsorship covers a minimum of 44 Test matches and 110 one-day internationals the Indian team will play over the next four years, starting with the tour of Pakistan from January 6. "Team India is a brand on the rise and very popular with sponsors," Niranjan Shah, the BCCI secretary, told AFP. "We are very satisfied with the deal."

According to BCCI officials, Air Sahara outbid Idea Cellular, Reliance Infocomm, and Indian Oil Corp to win the sponsorship of the national team. Hero Honda, a major automobile company, is said to have withdrawn at the last minute. Abhijit Sarkar, the Sahara India spokesman, said the company was delighted to renew its contract with the Indian team. "Sahara today is synonymous with Indian cricket," he said. "We got value for money during the deal that is coming to an end now."

New tenders will be floated for the telecast rights which include rights for satellite, terrestrial, DTH and radio rights. As part of the process of de-monopolising the sponsorships encouraged by the new board regime, the official media partner, official airline, and official hotel amongst others will be decided separately. For ensuring increased transparency in the bidding procedure, the BCCI had appointed two Cricket Australia officials as observers.

Air Sahara would be the sponsor for all the India matches at home and away. The ICC-backed tournaments like World Cup and Champions Trophy will, however, entail new bidding.