The outcome of the issue shows how neither side wished to lose out on the high stakes
The cloud of uncertainty surrounding Team India's sponsorship by corporate giant Sahara and its own team Pune Warriors' participation in the Indian Premier League's fifth edition finally lifted after Sahara Group and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), reached a compromise on all outstanding issues.
It may be recalled that Sahara, which was rebuffed by the BCCI when it placed its demands, decided to pull out of IPL V and also from the sponsorship of the Indian cricket team, which it had been backing with huge financial dole outs for the past decade. BCCI's executive body, in a meeting at Chennai earlier this month, took a rather rigid stand in dealing with the contentious issues raised by Sahara and a piqued Sahara boss, Subrata Roy, pulled the plug with a written statement hours before the IPL V auction in Bangalore.
But repeated rounds of backroom discussions and parleys continued even while both sides outwardly seemed to be sticking to their guns.
It all finally ended with the meeting in Kolkata, which was intense and paved the way for a face-saving deal for both.
Accordingly, Sahara's demand for the replacement of its icon player, Yuvraj Singh, who is undergoing cancer treatment in the U.S. and for fielding five foreign players in its team was accepted by the BCCI.
The rider was that all the other franchisees should consent to it.
The BCCI also agreed to the proposal for keeping the trading window open till Febraury 27, so that Pune Warriors could rope in more players to strengthen its squad.
For that purpose, the Pune Warriors purse has also been activated and the BCCI made it clear that it did not have an objection to Sahara's move to seek a strategic partner for its team. Sahara also sought to shift one of Pune Warriors' play-off ties from Bangalore to Pune and this demand too has been conceded by the BCCI.
What was not agreed on paper, but which has BCCI's tacit approval is Sahara's key demand that a ‘level playing field' is provided for all franchisees in the IPL. This, the BCCI has promised to do by engaging all franchisees on the issue.
Sahara, in turn, has agreed to be a part of IPL V by fielding Pune Warriors and more importantly, by continuing to support the Indian cricket team as the main sponsor. In fact, it had signed a renewed agreement with the BCCI in July 2011 for a whopping Rs. 500-crore plus deal.
It is quite obvious that neither side wished to lose out given the high stakes. In these days of high inflation, it would have been difficult for the BCCI to find another suitable sponsor for Team India, which has been going through a very rough patch. And for Sahara, sponsorship had given the corporate group huge visibility and also it would not have liked to be out of the IPL. With the agreement with the BCCI and given the fact that it has managed to push through most of its demands, Sahara Group Chairman Subrata Roy certainly can sport a smile now!