Indian cricket board defers IPL meeting

The controversy behind the new Kochi franchise will not be heard until after the current tournament finishes on April 25.

NEW DELHI // A meeting of India's cricket officials to resolve the controversy over a new Indian Premier League team has been put off until the Twenty20 event finishes, the Press Trust of India reported today. PTI said the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) delayed the meeting until the competition ends on April 25. The BCCI had earlier scheduled the session for yesterday. Meanwhile, income tax authorities asked the board to furnish details of all IPL franchises.

The controversy stems from an auction last month when a group made a successful bid of more than US$330 million (Dh1.2 billion) for the Kochi franchise. Lalit Modi, the IPL administrator, then revealed details about the owners, questioning why 25 per cent of the team was given to a group that included a friend of Shashi Tharoor, India's junior foreign minister, who has been hit with accusations that his shares were really intended as a hidden gift to him. Sunanda Pushkar, the friend of Mr Tharoor, whose free equity stake in the franchise is at the heart of the controversy has since decided to opt out, her lawyer said today. Ashish Mehta read out a statement on behalf of the Dubai-based businesswoman to the NDTV news channel saying Ms Pushkar had "voluntarily" given up the sweat equity Rendezvous Sports World - the consortium that won the auction bid for the franchise - had offered her. In the statement Ms Sunanda has said she was shocked to find "certain vested interests" questioning her credentials and because of the "unpleasant publicity" she was opting out.

Opposition politicians also demanded that Mr Tharoor should resign, but the politician hit back, saying there was no reason for the investors to bribe him since his ministry has nothing to do with the league and he had no way to influence an auction determined solely by who bid the most money. He said he did help put together the winning investment group, but only because he wanted to bring a franchise to the state of Kerala, part of which he represents in parliament.

Mr Modi was subsequently reprimanded by the board for the revelations. The IPL is an immensely successful franchise-based Twenty20 event that has attracted players from across the world. Eight city-based franchises were auctioned by the IPL in 2008. Last month, the IPL announced two new teams will join the league in 2010. BCCI chief Shashank Manohar had initially summoned the IPL governing council to find a way out of the raging debate that has even been raised in Indian parliament.

No new dates for the meeting have been announced. The board's chief administrator, Ratnakar Shetty, said that income tax authorities asked the BCCI to submit details of all the IPL franchises. "Initially, we were asked to give details only about the two new franchises. But now they want details about the eight other franchises too," PTI quoted Shetty as saying. The BCCI was asked to submit the details by Friday.

* Agencies