It appeared to be one googly that even the rich and powerful Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had not expected. As the franchises assembled in the morning at the five-star hotel where the players’ auction for the Indian Premier League’s (IPL’s) fifth edition was to take place, a small group had already made a quick exit.
That included a surprised former skipper Sourav Ganguly, mentor for Pune Warriors India (PWI), who had flown in from Australia where he was doing television commentary to take part in the auction. It quickly dawned on the remaining eight franchises, and the IPL authorities, that Sahara had pulled the plug on not just the newest team on the block but also withdrawn their 11-year deal as sponsors of the India team.
A Sahara representative stood outside the hotel distributing the statement, sharply criticising the IPL and the Indian board for their rigid stand against a group that deserved better, while there were doubts whether the auction would be pushed back or even cancelled.
The auction did kick off after the table set for the PWI owners was quickly removed from the hall. The IPL chairman Rajeev Shukla put up a brave face. “It is unfortunate. They should have informed us of their concerns in writing. We can respond only after that,” he said.
Cricket board officials feel Sahara have pulled out for commercial reasons and their request to the IPL authorities to find a new buyer for the Pune team is an indicator of the same.