The Board of Control for Cricket in India - already battling the recent IPL spot-fixing controversy - is under the additional pressure of searching for a new title sponsor after Bharti Airtel reportedly refused to extend its contract.
According to a report in ESPNCricinfo, the marketing committee of the Board will meet in Mumbai on Thursday to look for a new series sponsor for home matches. This after the telecommunications company refused to renew its contract despite a three-month grace period, post the March 31 deadline. The contract had been awarded from September 10, 2010 at a consideration of Rs 3.33 crore per match.
Airtel had replaced Sahara India Pariwar- currently in a stalemate with BCCI over matters relating to IPL franchise ownership - as the title sponsors. The decision now, to opt out may hurt BCCI's image further after spot-fixing scandal in the IPL plunged the Board into immense disarray. A Board member however was quoted as saying that Airtel's withdrawal had no links with the fixing controversy. "Airtel have shown interest in bidding for the team title rights, like they had done in the past," he said.
In the absence of Airtel as title sponsors, the return of Sahara also seems highly unlikely despite most terms and conditions likely to remain unchanged. In fact, Sahara had said that they would only consider returning if N Srinivasan was removed as chief of BCCI.
The future of Srinivasan in BCCI currently remains uncertain and for now - on Thursday, a 23-member panel headed by Farooq Abdullah - will finalise the tender document.