Lalit Modi may now have become a pariah in BCCI circle but if Kings XI Punjab co-owner Ness Wadia is to be believed, the IPL franchisees still long for the league's suspended commissioner.
Wadia spoke fondly of "family friend" Modi, lamenting how he had been "hung without trial" by the media and expressing confidence that "he would be back soon".
"Of course I miss Lalit, I have known him for 25 years. All the franchisees miss him and I think he was hung without a trial by the media," Wadia told reporters after the meeting between the franchise owners and the BCCI officials in Mumbai.
This was the first meeting between the franchisees and the BCCI since Modi's April 26 suspension and Wadia felt different on Thursday. "We miss Lalit Modi. It was different (when Modi was the face of IPL). We have been together for the last three years. He's also a family friend," he said.
Apart from Wadia, none of the other franchisee owners came out in the open in Modi's support. Royal Challengers Bangalore owner Vijay Mallya skirted the issue when asked if franchisees discussed Modi's suspension in today's meeting, saying "Don't ask me about Lalit Modi. That is between the BCCI and Modi."
Modi remains suspended mainly on charges of financial irregularities during his tenure as IPL boss and his fate is likely to be decided in BCCI's July 3 Special General Body meeting. Wadia, however, hoped that Modi would be back again at the helm of the Twenty20 league.
"I hope he gets a fair trial. Hopefully things will work out and he will be back soon. Hopefully he would get a fair trial from the government of India and the BCCI," said Wadia, who, along with Bollywood star Preity Zinta, Mohit Burman and Karan Paul, owns Kings XI Punjab. The industrialist also confirmed plans to sell out the franchise. "It's not about emotions, we are here to do business. We have met a lot of people and the day we get a good buyer we will announce it," he said. "We have applied (to BCCI) to sell it. It was a unanimous decision of all the owners. We have been talking to many people and eventually when we feel there is a good offer we will go for it," he said.
The franchisee's application for selling it is to be taken up at the IPL's Governing Council meeting tomorrow, as per the agenda. Wadia described today's meeting with BCCI officials as a means to set a road-map for IPL in the future. "It was a good meeting to find out the future of IPL," he said.