Broadcaster Ten Sports is not amused by the Indian cricket board's (BCCI) decision to rest seven star players and send what is in effect a second-string team for the triangular series in Zimbabwe.
With players like Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra missing, and with the concurrent excitement over the football World Cup in South Africa, the Zimbabwe games are not expected to make the TRP ratings soar.
"There's a gap of about 15 days between the World T20 and this series, which I feel is good enough for the professionals who play the sport for a living (to rest)," Atul Pandey, Head, Ten Sports, told HT.
"We have to rest our top players," a BCCI official told HT. "There's a long season ahead, but we're sending a young team with an eye to the future. We expect a good contest. And the broadcaster cannot dicate the team to us."
But Pandey felt sending a second-string team could harm the long-term interests of all the stakeholders, including fans.
"Viewer interest could decline a lot if this team fails to deliver the goods, especially after the World T20 debacle. If that happens, revenue could take a major hit in future," warned Pandey.
At the same time, he said they weren't too worried about revenue targets for the tri-series.
"It will be a challenge and without big names, the series won't be a blockbuster. But we'll do fine, thanks to our sponsors."
However, while Pandey put on a brave face, industry sources said it was a major setback.
"In such a situation, sponsors and advertisers generally renegotiate deals with the broadcaster," said a source. "It invariably leads to a substantial loss in revenue."
What's worse is that Ten Sports can't even seek compensation from either the host board or the BCCI.
"When bids are made for the rights, there's no clause pertaining to the quality of the teams that will participate. So it's not an option, but we feel there should be a bit more predictability in team selection," he said.
But isn't it unfair to expect big-name players to turn out for every series in a tightly packed cricketing year?
Pandey said he couldn't answer that.
"It's for the boards to sort that out."