The mystery over media conglomerate Essel Group registering companies in Australia and other Test countries hasn't been solved yet. Now it emerges that Essel, organiser of the defunct rebel T20 tournament Indian Cricket League, also registered five Indian cities-based leagues in January, taking the number of such Indian entities it has registered with the ministry of corporate affairs to 15.
The new teams are Agartala Cricket League, Aizawl Cricket League, Imphal Cricket League, Itanagar Cricket League and Kohima Cricket League. An investigation by HT revealed that all these have one director, Naresh Dhoundiyal, a senior Essel Group official.
Interestingly, the five entities were registered by January end, within days of the Supreme Court giving its verdict on the IPL spot-fixing scandal on January 22. While it's unclear what the group plans to achieve by registering entities abroad, Dhoundiyal confirmed to HT that Essel, which owns Zee and Ten TV channels, has plans to enter cricket in a big way.
In the pipeline
"We have a massive plan for cricket in India and groundwork has been going on in many states. I can't give you details of the project as it is going to be made public in the next six months," Dhoundiyal, an assistant vice-president of the Essel Group, told HT on Wednesday.
He is also a director of other entities, Awadh Cricket League, Him-Pradesh League, Chandigarh Cricket League, Garhwal Cricket League, Jharkhand Cricket League and Assam Cricket League.
Another Essel employee, Ashok Balvantrai Sanghvi, is a director in five teams. Interestingly, none of these leagues has organised any match.
Another top official, Anil Absaheb Chogule, is not only one of the directors on the five new teams, but also enjoys the same position in 'Cricket Association of India', also registered with the Registrar of Companies, with B-10, Lawrence Road in Delhi as its address. That is from where Essel began its journey as a small rice company, going on to become one of India's biggest media entities and branching into other businesses.
Essel's first 10 cricket leagues were registered as companies after January 2009, when talks between BCCI and Indian Cricket League failed. Both parties had come close to settling the issue after BCCI decided to give space to Essel.
That year, at the BCCI working committee meeting on January 3, president Shashank Manohar announced that a proposal had been made, giving Essel the opportunity to buy an IPL franchise. However, its chief Subhash Chandra put a counter proposal and consequently the negotiations collapsed.
According to the minutes of the ICC board meeting held in Dubai on January 29, 2013, then BCCI president N Srinivasan reminded the directors that Essel Sports remained in litigation with the BCCI, ICC and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), which could cause significant damage to the ICC member countries.