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England was just a smokescreen

cricket Updated: Mar 25, 2009 02:03 IST
Arjun Sen
Arjun Sen
Hindustan Times
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The IPL had a problem. Despite some states being very keen on hosting the second edition, others were wary and worse still, the government wasn't happy. So even while outwardly, everyone spoke of dates and alternative schedules, certain members of the governing council, were asking IPL commissioner Lalit Modi to 'not antagonise the government any further'.

The thinking was simple: The more the IPL pushed for a solution and tried to work around the election dates, the more political the whole issue would become. "We understand the politics," a member of the governing council had told HT. "It is not coincidence that the states welcoming us are all opposition ruled."

In fact, the IPL had apparently devised a 'contingency plan' in the event of a cancellation becoming necessary, whereby they would tell sponsors and franchisees to treat it as a 'zero year' with all the deals carried forward to next year along the same commercial lines.

Modi, however, would not have any of it. Sensing more roadblocks from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Modi informally got in touch with Cricket South Africa (CSA) before last weekend, realising that the only way he could have his tournament without controversy was if it were held outside India.

CSA was more than willing and Modi knew he had an ace up his sleeve if it ever came to that. Negotiations, meanwhile, both with the states and the MHA went on. But by March 20, Modi realised his chances of holding the IPL here were fast diminishing. He asked a couple of officials to fly out to SA on Saturday and 'look at things'. But while most BCCI members said 'yes' to Modi's plan of shifting the tournament out, South Africa was not a unanimous choice. The working committee meeting was called specifically to decide the venue, and while all the franchisees and the IPL wanted South Africa, BCCI secretary N. Srinivasan and president Shashank Manohar were reportedly in favour of England. Modi then instructed his team to get in touch with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) who, too, wanted the tournament.

However, Modi had spoken to CSA for a reason - he knew the conditions in England were not ideal and the counties could create a problem in leasing out their grounds. Still, mixed signals were sent out. While most people were convinced it was England, Modi and his team quietly stitched together a deal with the CSA, who in turn had formally got approval from their local associations by Monday.

A lot of things worked against England, not the least being the possibility of a terror threat on a sporting event there in April - something intelligence authorities had reportedly warned Modi and his team about. It was always going to be South Africa, England was nothing more than a smokescreen, and a clever one at that too.