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Sahara, sponsor of the Indian team for over 11 years, decided to part ways with the BCCI yesterday, complaining that the Board did not give due consideration to its genuine grievances with regards to players and number of matches in the IPL.
Sahara had signed a renewed sponsorship agreement with the BCCI on July 1, 2010 till December 31, 2013 and was paying Rs 3.34 crore per Test match, one-day international and T20 International under the new terms. The deal is said to be worth Rs 532 crore.
Sahara entered the IPL bandwagon last year by buying Pune Warriors for Rs 1702 crore, making it the costliest franchise in the T20 event.
The BCCI stands to lose Rs 2234 crore if Sahara sticks to its stand. However, the Board can find another sponsor to neutralise the losses.
Taken aback by the sudden pullout, the BCCI, which struggled to find long-term team sponsors in the past, is keen to hold on to the company.
"We are very confident that the Pune Warriors will participate in the IPL and the matter would be resolved. They have not given anything to us in writing about the pullout," said a top IPL source.
Interestingly, the IPL authorities had gone ahead with the players auction without the Pune team representatives yesterday in Bangalore.
In case the Pune Warriors actually decide to stay off, the IPL authorities would be left to deal with a very tricky situation. The options at hand include, reducing the event to eight teams and selling Pune Warriors to a new owner but with the IPL scheduled to start on April 4, it would be a race against time to get things in order.
The fate of Pune Warriors players also remains uncertain and in case they don't get a new franchise as they may not be able to play at all.
Sahara, on the other hand, maintained that no BCCI official has spoken to them on the matter as yet.
The company had yesterday stated that several slights by the BCCI over the past few years prompted it to break ties.
"The decision we took to end ties was not a bad one at all. We had enough of it. Any relationship does not break on one single issue only. We had a long relationship. It has to do with many issues and has happened continuously," Sahara Group chief Subroto Roy had said.
The BCCI yesterday said that rules would not be bent for any IPL franchise but it would still reach out to aggrieved Sahara "as soon as practicable to clarify its intentions."
Roy said considering the number of IPL matches reduced from the originally-proposed 94, Pune Warriors paid 25 per cent more money to the BCCI for owning the franchise.
According to top sources, the main bone of contention is Sahara's marquee player in the IPL Yuvraj Singh, who is currently undergoing chemotherapy in the United States for cancer in lungs.
His unavailability in the IPL this season prompted Sahara to ask the BCCI that the price of USD 1.8 million on the batsman be added to their overall purse for the players auction but the request was turned down.
"During the last few days Sahara Adventure Sports Limited has requested that IPL vary its Player Regulations by allowing it to increase its Auction Purse from USD 1.6m to USD 3.4m in light of Yuvraj Singh's unfortunate illness", BCCI Secretary Sanjay Jagdale said.
The Board said Sahara could have picked a player during the transfer window after the auction instead of asking for bending of rules.