On the morning of the big bazaar, a little over an hour before the IPL auction for season 5, the Sahara India group has announced its dissociation with all cricket under the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI); this means it has withdrawn its sponsorship of the Indian cricket team and has pulled out its Pune Warriors team from the Indian Premier League.
The immediate trigger for Sahara's emotional pull-out, on the morning of the auction, is that their only marquee player in the Pune Warriors, Yuvraj Singh, is indisposed and the BCCI has turned down Sahara's request that his price be added to their purse today to allow them to replace him for season 5.Â A miffed Sahara has requested the BCCI to pass on the Pune Warriors team to any other interested party. Immediately. (Read: Full statement)
Yuvraj Singh, who undergoing treatment abroad for a non-malignant tumour. Sahara said in a long statement, "Yuvraj Singh, who is truly like one of our family members, is, quite unfortunately, passing through a bad phase health wise, undergoing treatment for critical illness, overseas. Out of enthusiasm, he may like to come out on the ground after a few months. But any well-wisher who truly loves him, would never desire that he be allowed to play for the oncoming months. Our duty is to take care of him, so Sahara has decided to pay him his full fee this year with condition as a Guardian that his priority should be health care and he should not play till he has fully recovered."
"We requested the BCCI on the basis of the fact that we have only one Indian marquee player, that we be allowed to add price of Yuvraj Singh in our auction purse, during the 4th February auction because we had later taken Sourav Ganguly at 0.4 million. Again, we have been denied on the basis of the rule book. Yet again, a case of being denied natural justice," they added. (Also read: We will contact Sahara: BCCI)
Sahara had appointed Sourav Ganguly as the Pune Warriors mentor-cum-captain only last month.
This moment, if Sahara goes through with it, will mark the end of an 11-year association with Indian cricket. "Now after a 11-year journey as sponsors, we can say with surety that cricket has become very rich. Many rich people are there to support cricket with a strong will to do so. So, with absolute peace of mind we can exit from cricket under BCCI and are now exiting with a heavy heart. It was an emotional decision for us to start this sponsorship but our emotions were never appreciated and many genuine situations, were not given due consideration at all," the statement said.
Sahara says it is snapping all ties with the BCCI because of the way it functions. It has accused the board of functioning on whims and fancies. During a World Cup tournament, Sahara had not been allowed to display its logo on Team India shirts for a few matches because thereÂ was a conflict of interest with a South African airlines that was an ICC sponsor. Sahara says that while the BCCI had said it would not have to pay for those matches, it ended up paying the players.
And IPL has been a sore point for more many reasons. Today's Sahara statement says, "Our first entry into IPL was thwarted in 2008 when we were disqualified, owing to a small technicality on the whims and fancies of BCCI. Yet our bid was not opened...Last year, Sahara entered the IPL on the basis of information in the media and everywhere else that 94 matches will be played among 10 teams. The bid price was accordingly calculated, but only 74 matches were played. We are still pursuing continuously with the BCCI to refund the extra bid money proportionately. It has been denied on the basis of strict rules."
Then, the statement said, "In the interest of the tournament, we repeatedly tried our best to pursue the BCCI for open auction of all players so that we achieve level playing field and all teams are equally balanced from the quality players' point of view. Again, as per BCCI's strict rules it was denied and again, we were deprived of natural justice. 12 of the best players were retained by the existing teams then...The two new teams (Sahara and Kochi) then requested for allowing us at least one extra foreign player but that too was denied, quoting rules."