Indian Premier League: Shifting goalposts to serve its needs?

Through the four seasons of the IPL and the three Champions Leagues, the tournaments' rules have often been bent, to the advantage of certain teams.

Updated: February 09, 2012 10:38 IST
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On Saturday, Subroto Roy, the head of Sahara Pune Warriors, accused the IPL of favouring certain franchises over others. On Tuesday, it was Lalit Modi, the former IPL chairman, saying Roy's accusations were "absolutely justified". Both stressed on the issue of rules being changed to benefit specific interests, which raises serious questions about the administration of the world's richest cricket tournament.

It has not just happened in the IPL. Here's a look at some of the times the BCCI, IPL and Champions League (another Twenty20 tournament created by Modi but run by the BCCI together with Cricket Australia and Cricket South Africa) may have accommodated a franchise, done a U-turn on a regulation or changed a rule at the last minute:

BCCI changes its constitution

In September 2008, after the first season of the IPL, the BCCI amended clause 6.2.4 of the regulations for players, team officials, umpires and administrators, which originally read: "No administrator shall have, directly or indirectly, any commercial interest in the matches and events conducted by the board." After the change, it read: "No administrator shall have directly or indirectly any commercial interest in any of the events of the BCCI, excluding IPL, Champions League and Twenty20."

The change allowed N Srinivasan, then treasurer of the board, to own an IPL franchise - he is also managing director of India Cements, the owner of the Chennai Super Kings. Srinivasan had been in violation of the board's regulations until the change was made.

The matter is now the subject of a petition filed by former BCCI president AC Muthiah, who has questioned the motives behind the amendment. The case is still before the Supreme Court, but in a split decision last year, Justice Gyan Sudha Mishra said Srinivasan should have stepped down from the BCCI until the case was settled.

Signing former ICL players

In 2009, those players who had taken part in the banned Indian Cricket League were given amnesty by the BCCI and the ICC. That raised the question of how to make the players available to the IPL franchises.

According to one franchise official, the original idea was to have the teams pick the players in a draft, with the franchise with the poorest record getting the first pick. The draft system is used in all the professional sports leagues in the United States of America, with the team with the worst record the previous year getting to pick first. However, the franchises were later told they were free to sign players on their own, outside an auction or draft. The Mumbai Indians immediately signed R Sathish, Ambati Rayudu and Ali Murtuza, who helped them reach the final of the 2010 IPL.

Revoking the billionaire clause

In 2010, the BCCI issued a tender for two new IPL franchises. The minimum price for a franchise was set at US$225 million and among the conditions was the billionaire clause: any person, company or consortium that bid for a team had to be worth at least $1 billion. The board received three bids for the two franchises but, just before the bids were to be opened, the BCCI postponed the entire process by two weeks and removed the billionaire clause to allow more bidders to come forward. At the time, Modi said Shashank Manohar and N Srinivasan, the Indian board's president and secretary, took the call to make the changes "based upon complaints received from various companies".

The decision upset one of the original bidders, a consortium comprising the Videocon group, led by Venugopal Dhoot, Panchshil Realty's founder chairman Atul Chordia and Bollywood actors Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor. They were eventually not among the successful bidders and put their anger on record. "When the BCCI have an efficient team with eminent lawyers and businessmen, why did they put stringent conditions in place and then take a U-turn?" Chordia told the Hindustan Times. "There were three legitimate bids. I just can't understand the motive behind this."

The player retention rule

The IPL has also changed rules that have been opposed by a majority of franchises. Prior to the 2011 player auction, a majority of the original franchises and the two new franchises wanted all the available players to be placed in an auction - as per the IPL's original rules. However, the IPL ultimately decided that teams would be allowed to retain a maximum of four players. Following that decision, the Super Kings and Mumbai Indians were the only teams to retain as many as four players.

"The retention clause was only for the first three years," Modi said on Tuesday. "All players were supposed to go back into an auction after the first three years. In the fourth year [2011] that did not happen and they allowed the players to stay back. That became a problem; it was to the detriment of the new teams. When the new teams come in, that's a problem for them and I had pointed it out last year."

Switching the auction format

In 2011, the franchisees were told of a change in the auction format less than 24 hours before its start. Originally, the marquee players were supposed to be auctioned first, while the rest of the player would be grouped into sets - batsmen, allrounders etc - and their order would be determined by a live random draw. The new format, however, would see the players presented in a fixed pre-decided order.

The idea of the random draw in the auction room, in the presence of the bidders, was to ensure transparency and that none of the franchisees would know the order of the players. If a franchise knew the fixed order in which players were to appear, however, then that would give them an advantage as they would know when to bid for certain players and when to wait. The Mumbai Indians later sought an explanation from the IPL for the changes, which they felt compromised the "level-playing field" for all franchises.

Chris Gayle and Dirk Nannes

In the 2011 Champions League T20, Royal Challengers were allowed to include West Indies batsman Chris Gayle and Australia fast bowler Dirk Nannes in the same playing XI despite Gayle having originally been signed only as a replacement player for Nannes during the 2011 IPL. IPL rules on replacements stated that if a player was replaced for the entire tournament, as Nannes was, he could not return until the next season.

Mumbai Indians field five foreign players

In the same tournament, the Mumbai Indians were allowed to play five foreign players instead of the stipulated four because they had a number of injured Indian players. However, allrounder Suryakumar Yadav, originally one of eight Indian players reported injured by the Mumbai Indians, played in an under-22 tournament in Mumbai during the Champions League, making 191 for Chandrakant Pandit XI against Dilip Vengsarkar XI.

Yadav was later allowed to return to the Mumbai Indians squad ahead of the semi-finals and the Champions League withdrew their exception. The Mumbai Indians went on to win the tournament, beating Royal Challengers Bangalore in the final.

"[They] changed the rules in Champions League when they allowed five foreign players only for one team," Modi said. "Either you make the rules for all teams and everybody benefits out of it, or you don't make them at all. You can't make it for one team."

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