Mumbai, Feb 4: The Indian cricket board suffered a massive double blow Saturday after Sahara India withdrew its sponsorship of the Indian cricket team and pulled out of the Pune Warriors franchise of the Indian Premier League (IPL).
The move comes just hours before the IPL auction for season five, after the BCCI turned down the franchise's request that the price of their marqueee player Yuvraj Singh be added to their overall purse for the auction. "We really feel such one-sided emotional relationship cannot be dragged on any further. We are withdrawing from all cricket under the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)," Sahara, who chose not to be present at the IPL-5 players auction, said.
Yuvraj is currently recuperating from from a lung tumour and will be out of action for at least the next six months. "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. "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," the company stated.
"All other IPL team players, coaches and other such associates will definitely get their due this year, in case they do not get a chance to play." "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."
"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. Twelve of the best players were retained by the existing teams then."
"The two new teams then requested for allowing us at least one extra foreign player but that too was denied, quoting rules." "Once during a World Cup tournament, Sahara’s name was not allowed because there was a clash of our Airline with a South African airline. In two major tournaments, the team had to play without the Sahara logo."
"It was ICC’s decision so we could realise that it was for no fault of BCCI and we also did not want the players to suffer. As per the rules, we were not supposed to pay sponsorship money for those matches but we still paid the players share of the amount in entirety. Sadly, we never found BCCI believing in genuine give and take." Sahara said.
The BCCI meanwhile reacted saying "if we understand Sahara Adventure Sports Limited’s statement, it intends not to participate in the 2012 IPL Auction or in the 2012 IPL Season." "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 $1.6m to $3.4m in light of Yuvraj Singh’s unfortunate illness. Whilst all within IPL and BCCI have a huge amount of sympathy for Yuvraj Singh and wish him all the best for a speedy recovery, it is unable to vary the Player Regulations," the BCCI said. "The rules are very clear and are consistent with previous seasons: Sahara Adventure Sports Limited may take a replacement following the 2012 Auction.
"Additionally, the Trading Window will re-open on 6th February and Sahara Adventure Sports Limited will then have a further opportunity to take new players. In the first four seasons of IPL, other franchises have been obliged to cope with the periods of unavailability of their players and have taken replacements as per the regulations."
"The BCCI cherishes its relationship with all the IPL Franchises. The rules are applicable to all of them," said the statement by Sanjay Jagdale, BCCI honorary secretary. However, Sahara Indian announced several sponsorship and development projects that the company would perform in the coming days.
“Rs 10 crore support every year for underprivileged sports achievers of yesteryears & present,” the statement said. Speaking about the developmental activities and sponsorship, Sahara India statement stated: “300 fully equipped medical vans for remote villages , 100 plus tankers for safe drinking water , 10,000 screens with dish antenna for villages for overall extensive literacy & education.”
Sahara India also stated that they would develop 20 Rural/Semi Urban Sports Promotional Centers that include Rural/Semi Urban Cricket promotional Centers in the coming years. "One international standard sports academy shall immediately be developed at one point in India,” Sahara India announced in the statement. Sahara India will hold press conference at 4.00 pm in Mumbai, it said on a news site it owns. Sahara had been sponsoring the Indian Cricket Team since 2001.