Bad tidings do come on a sheet of paper. Just as reporters and television crews were striding in to the ITC Royal Gardenia Hotel for the Indian Premier League players auction here on Saturday morning, public relations officials associated with Sahara Adventure Sports Limited (SASL), issued a press release that stated the ‘severance of ties' between Sahara and the Board of Control for Cricket in India.
Sahara, the sponsor of the Indian team for the last 11 years and owner of Pune Warriors, delivered a twin blow, snapping ties with the ‘Men in Blue' and also opting out of the IPL.
The press release started tersely — “Sahara to dissociate with BCCI/IPL and reinvest in setting up of 20 sports promotion centres” — and then the departure of company officials and Pune Warriors' key player Sourav Ganguly from the hotel, created a state of flux about the auction though the event was held as scheduled.
The release from SASL managing director Sushanto Roy explained the company's sore points with the BCCI. The leading fault-line was BCCI's refusal to make an exception for Pune Warriors to come in with an auction purse that is more than the stipulated Rs. 2 million.
The team cited that with skipper Yuvraj Singh being unwell, the money spent on him, should be added back to its purse for the auction.
The release stated: “We requested the BCCI that we be allowed to add the price of Yuvraj to our auction purse, because we had later taken Ganguly at $0.4 million.” Roy reiterated the management's support for Yuvraj. “Sahara has decided to pay Yuvraj his full fee this year with the condition that his priority should be health care and he should not play till he has fully recovered. We think this peculiar situation of Yuvraj is silent in the rule book because it probably talks only about players who are temporarily injured,” Roy wrote.
The company promised to support the Indian team for a few more months until a new sponsor is found and requested the Board to pass on Pune Warriors “to some other interested party immediately”.
The BCCI's top-brass, meanwhile, said that they had not heard anything official from Sahara and so no comment would be made on the ‘split.'
IPL chairman Rajeev Shukla said: “It's unfortunate, but the IPL will continue. They have circulated a press release and I have seen that but without them giving us anything in writing officially, we cannot react.”
Later through a press release, BCCI secretary Sanjay Jagdale said that SASL had requested that IPL vary its ‘player regulations' by allowing it to increase its ‘auction purse' from $1.6m to $3.4m in light of Yuvraj's unfortunate illness.
“The rules are clear and consistent: SASL may take a replacement following the 2012 auction. Additionally, the trading window will re-open on February 6 and SASL will then have a further opportunity to take new players.
“In the first four seasons, other franchises have coped with the periods of unavailability of their players and have taken replacements as per the regulations.The rules are applicable to all.”
The coming days should throw a clearer picture on Indian cricket's latest commercial fissure.