Mumbai: The IPL Twenty20 tournament, which proved to be hugely popular in its inaugural edition last year, will be played this year in another country, probably England or South Africa, in the wake of a tussle between the Government and the BCCI over security issues.
The BCCI took the surprise decision on Sunday after the Union Home Ministry and some state governments had told the organisers that it may not be possible to provide adequate security for the 45-day tournament whose dates clash with the Lok Sabha polls.
Even a rescheduling of the matches and change of some venues had not satisfied the security establishment which had heightened concerns after the Lahore terror attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team.
Determined to go ahead with the tournament which involves big money - some estimates putting the figure at close to Rs10,000 crores mainly in TV rights and sponsorships - the BCCI threw a googly at the government by taking the tournament out of the country.
After the meeting of the BCCI working Committee attended among others by union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, the BCCI president Shashank Manohar told a press conference that they were forced to take the tournament out of the country because of the government’s attitude.
Read full coverage of IPL-Govt clash
Manohar said that the BCCI was in touch with Boards of other countries and a decision on the venue for the IPL will be taken in 2-3 days. BCCI sources said that the England or South Africa appear to be most likely venues.
“Because of the attitude of the government that they are not ready to spare security forces for the cricket tournament... we are forced to take the decision to move the event out of India,” Manohar said.
“So the Board has decided to take the tournament out of the country. We are in discussion with other Boards who are willing to host the event. I apologise to the people of India for moving the tournament out,” Manohar said.
“But we’re are going ahead with the event so that they can at least watch the event on television,” he added.
The BCCI President said venue would be decided in next couple of days. “We are in discussion with other boards and will decide the venue in next two-three days,” he said
IPL commissioner and chairman Lalit Modi, who was also at the press conference, said the number of matches, format and timing of the event will remain unchanged and the organisers would not tinker with the “integrity of the tournament”.
“Dates and timings of the matches will remain the same. The Indian audiences can watch the matches at 4pm and 8pm IST as they did in the inaugural season,” Modi said.
Modi said the increased cost of holding the matches overseas was not important but the tournament’s integrity was.
“We are not bothered about the cost factor but the issue is the integrity of the tournament. The issue is holding all 59 matches as scheduled,” the IPL Commissioner said.
Modi said the telecast row concerning the tournament between the BCCI and Sony was also expected to be sorted out in 24 hours.
Manohar also expressed his displeasure at the state governments’ attitude, saying Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra Government changed there stance at the last moment.
“The AP government revoked its earlier permission... and Maharashtra Chief Minister wrote a letter that we can’t host matches in that state until 13 May. We had scheduled 18 matches for Maharashtra,” he said.
Manohar said that the BCCI officials would now have a discussion with the eight franchise team owners and said on an optimistic note, in the presence of team owners Vijay Mallya and Nita Ambani, as well as N Srinivasan (the BCCI secretary), that he did not think they will have any objection.
“We will hold discussions with the owners. I don’t think the franchises would oppose us,” he said.
The schedule of the tournament has been fixed from 10 April-24 May and BCCI said in a press release that there did not exist any other window for holding the IPL sometime later.
The BCCI statement said it was not possible to hold the event on any other dated that the original schedule due to busy international calender.
“The BCCI is conscious of the general elections, which will be held between 16 April and 13 May, 2009. The BCCI has had several discussions with the Ministry of Home Affairs on the scheduling of IPL matches.
"...It is pertinent to understand that within the present International calendar of events, there is no other window for IPL to be played during this year. Immediately after the IPL, the teams will be in England on 25 May for the ICC Twenty20 World Cup commencing from 2 June.
“After the ICC Twenty20 World Cup, the Indian team will play 4 ODIs in the West Indies after which, the team will tour Zimbabwe for a tri-series involving Zimbabwe and South Africa.
“In September, India would play Champions Trophy in South Africa, following which would be the Champions League. Between October 2009 and March 2010, there are three home series against Australia, Sri Lanka and South Africa,” it said.
The release also said the tournament provided a large revenue last year so, it would not hold a truncated event.
“The experience of the first IPL has shown that apart from providing employment at the various venues, IPL has also contributed close to Rs.100 crores to the exchequer.
“The BCCI, therefore, is not in a position to either play a truncated IPL or to cancel the 2nd edition of the IPL... The BCCI is left with no other option but to conduct the Indian Premier League in another country,”