BCCI blinks, Sahara grins

How Subrata Roy had his way with the cricket board

New Delhi: Sahara Star’s sixth floor office-cum-residence of Subrata Roy became the epicentre of lengthy confabulations between the BCCI and Sahara satraps. The back channel dialogue after much posturing by the board officials was a major climb down for the cricket body.     

After the initial deadlock, BCCI president N Srinivasan roped in Kolkata Knight Riders owner and actor Shahrukh Khan to persuade Sahara chairman Subrata Roy to come back to the negotiating table. Also called in to save the bacon were former BCCI president Shashank Manohar and present treasurer Ajay Shirke, who hammered out the nuts and bolts of the final settlement.     

Roy was accompanied by his son Sushanto Roy and pointman Abhijit Roy in the nerve wracking negotiations. At the core of the settlement was that an arbitration process will act as an enabler for the return of 27 per cent of the total franchise fee of $370 million paid by Pune Warriors to Sahara. This translates to a sum of approximately $92 million which was a big victory.
At 5.50 pm on Thursday, when Shirke finally shook hands with Subrata Roy, his two sons and four other key men with the Lucknow-based business conglomerate, he had won a personal battle. But the BCCI lost face as it conceded all eight demands of Sahara to save the IPL from plunging into a deeper morass and retained the company as the national team sponsor.

At 7.56 pm, as he waited for the plane to take off from Mumbai for his home city Pune, a down-to-earth Shirke told Mail Today: “The important thing is the patient is cured; it’s not important who the doctor was or what the medicine was. I wouldn’t like to take credit. It was a Team BCCI effort. I am more happy than relieved.” Shirke, also president of the Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA), revealed that about two hours before the eventual resolution the efforts almost collapsed.     

“At 4 pm, the talks had broken down; there were a lot of small issues, legalities involved, disagreements, and how the points should be worded,” he disclosed.
“I was constantly on phone, consulting with N Srinivasan (BCCI president), Arun Jaitley (vice president), Sundar Raman (IPL COO) and others. Also, I have a special relationship with Sahara.” The stadium that is coming up near Pune is funded by Sahara and Shirke, who is closely coordinating with Roy on that front, has a lot at stake over the project.     

Sahara had threatened to withdraw its sponsorship of the Indian team after an 11-year-old relationship after the BCCI refused to admit its charter of demands pertaining to the IPL Pune Warriors  that it had bought for over Rs 1,700 crore – the costliest of the nine franchises — in 2010.

Amongst other issues, Sahara wanted the BCCI to allow it to add $1.8 million, the amount with which it had bought Yuvraj Singh, to its available purse for the February 4 auction.

The BCCI not just acceded to this demand, but seven others as well. In a joint statement issued with company, it said that Sahara can now buy players with the full purse of $2 million, the same as the other eight franchises used at the Bangalore auction. IPL- V will be played from April 4.

Roy was graceful in victory and the BCCI relieved. “From the core of my heart, I genuinely appreciate all concerned senior BCCI officials for their initiative in resolving the issue. I genuinely convey my thanks ...,” Roy said.     

“The emotional initiative by Shashank Manohar [ex-BCCI president] is highly appreciated. With all his positivity, Shahrukh Khan motivated everybody by going out of his way, in the interest of IPL and cricket.” Srinivasan told Mail Today: “I’m quite happy about it. I’m very happy.”

Shukla, who took over as chairman of IPL governing council in September, said: “The last three days were very crucial. I kept telling Sundar to keep on talking; the talks should not break down.” The most crucial of the five- day long talks was Wednesday, when the discussions lasted for almost 12 hours, after starting at 1 pm, said a source who attended the meeting. Shirke left for Pune at 10.30 pm, but the talks continued at Sahara Star.     

Shirke returned to Mumbai at 10.30 am on Thursday and straightaway drove down to the hotel to resume talks on what eventually turned out to be the final of the 13-day conflict that virtually shook the foundations of Indian cricket.